“Indie rockers loved for their lo-fi sound always risk losing fans when they shine their new releases with big-band polish. Luckily for Guided by Voices zealots, their prolific king, Robert Pollard, can’t seem to steer his band any direction but up. On Isolation Drills, GBV builds on the full sound of Do the Collapse, enlisting Robert Scnapf (Foo Fighters, Elliott Smith, Beck) to help with production. The result is a two-tiered record that sparkles with the fullness of fuzzy guitars, pounding drums, and the backing textures of organ, piano, and strings, while cracking the code of Pollard’s more fragile psyche.
The band’s gritty sound has swelled into a grand sonic landscape, but a closer look shows a pockmarked world existing between the lyrical lines. Pollard’s whimsical songwriting takes a turn for the serious on a number of Isolation songs. On “The Brides Have Hit Glass,” he laments, “It won’t last/ To be on top of your own world/ With no guard rails to cling onto/ You fall so very fast.” On “How’s My Drinking?” he almost slurs the words about ceasing to care for sobriety as he sings, “I won’t change,” and coos with the rest of the melody. Isolation is a brilliant mix of uptempo Pollard anthems (“Glad Girls”) teetering on the edge of a fractured looking glass.”