Isolation Drills is a masterful album from start to finish with a balance of rock gems and beautiful pop melodies. Produced by Rob Schnapf, whose previous credits include Foo Fighters, Beck, Elliot Smith and the Toadies.... more » The 2001 album is a stunning testament to the brilliant evolution of this wondrous band. Includes 'Chasing Heather Crazy', 'Glad Girls', 'Skills Like This' (featuring Elliot Smith) and 'The Brides Have Hit Glass'. Digipak.« less
Isolation Drills is a masterful album from start to finish with a balance of rock gems and beautiful pop melodies. Produced by Rob Schnapf, whose previous credits include Foo Fighters, Beck, Elliot Smith and the Toadies. The 2001 album is a stunning testament to the brilliant evolution of this wondrous band. Includes 'Chasing Heather Crazy', 'Glad Girls', 'Skills Like This' (featuring Elliot Smith) and 'The Brides Have Hit Glass'. Digipak.
The last great rock band learns the value of repetition
J. M. Ramirez | 05/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Imagine that the best rock songwriter in the world came up to you and said, "Hey, I got together with my friends and recorded demos of some new tunes in my living room. Want the tape?" What would you say? "Wow! I can't wait to hear what the best rock songwriter in the world has been up to," or perhaps, "No, thanks -- I won't waste time on hissy, distorted recordings, no matter how good the material may be."Unfortunately for Guided By Voices, too many rock fans in the '90s gave the second reply, leaving such lo-fi masterpieces as *Bee Thousand* and *Alien Lanes* largely unheard, except by critics, indie zealots, and Ohio cultists. The average record buyer just couldn't imagine that a track with an unpromising title like "Tractor Rape Chain," sloppily recorded in someone's basement, could be the equal of such guitar pop jewels as the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride" or an R.E.M. gem from the early '80s. But it is.The marvelous *Isolation Drills* is the culmination of GBV's five-year plan to boost the recording quality and accessibility of its music while preserving its intelligence and amazing melodic richness. *Under the Bushes Under the Stars* was the first halting step out of the basement, mixing more competently captured home-brewed tunes with some clean studio tracks. (That album's halfway position between sloppy and slick GBV, and its astonishing set of great songs, make it the perfect introduction to the group.) *Mag Earwhig!* was a full-fledged studio production, and *Do the Collapse* added a fancy producer (Ric Ocasek). *Isolation Drills* perfects the studio formula while improving on the somewhat hit-or-miss song quality of the last two albums.When an album is this good, and this consistent, there is little point in singling out individual songs; almost every tune has the potential to be someone's favorite. Nevertheless: "Skills Like This" is possibly the most exciting rocker the band has ever done; "Twilight Campfighter" is sadly beautiful; and "Glad Girls" is an utterly perfect power pop anthem (so is "Chasing Heather Crazy," for that matter, but one has to stop the list somewhere).A track that highlights GBV's changed attitude toward traditional pop values is "The Enemy," a pummeling mid-tempo rocker. In the old days, a tune like this would have run about 90 seconds, leaving listeners hungry for more. But today's GBV understands that rock is essentially a minimalist art form (this is why the best art rock of the last 25 years apes the procedures of minimalist composers more than it follows the lead of Romantic symphonists). One of the key techniques of musical minimalism is the repetition, with subtle variation, of short melodic phrases. In "The Enemy," GBV takes a cool riff and hammers it home over and over as the tune runs to its full 4'30" length. Fans of the band's former fragmentary style may scoff, but I find the impact exhilarating.Finally, it's worth noting that the best rock songwriter in the world, Robert Pollard, is also a pretty good lead singer, with an unusually acute sense of pitch. Many rock singers, especially those working out a bend-the-notes, pitch-is-a-continuum blues tradition or some scream-oriented aesthetic, couldn't tell the difference between a C and a C# on a piano, much less in their own mouths. Pollard can. His finely honed melodies actually demand precise singing, which he delivers."
Lo-fi, hi-fi, who cares?
Christian Bonner | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United States | 04/24/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Isolation Drills is another great album by GBV. Obviously alot of people are snivelling about the fact that GBV have left their 4-track lo-fi days behind. But as Robert Pollard has said, the whole reason that GBV has existed from the beginning is to make big rock records like this; they just didn't have the money or technology when they made those earlier records. The way I see it, good songs are good songs, whether they're recorded on a Sony boombox or a 64-track digital soundboard. Tracks like "The Brides have Hit Glass", "Twilight Campfighter", "Skills Like This", and especially "Unspirited" are as good as anything GBV has ever done. Anyone who dismisses this album as an over-produced sellout is obviously completely missing the point. True GBV know that Isolation Drills is top-knotch."
How could this be anything but 5 stars
Dan C. | Chandler, AZ United States | 04/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How could this be anything but 5 stars, especially with the garbage that [comes] out regularly on radio, mtv, etc. Sometimes I think we judge Bob to harshly because of the masterpieces like "Bee Thousand", "Alien Lanes", etc. The guy is master songwriter and we should indulge Bob, Doug, and the rest a chance at bringing just a little bit of that charm to the masses and hopefully get the recognition that Bob and GBV so justly deserve. This hi-fi recording stands on its own with some very good songs. Let's face it, you will be humming "Chasing Heather Crazy" before you know it, and thinking how cool "Unspirited" sounds. Then you might just think that, like I do that "The brides have hit glass" is a real GBV gem for the ages. The Replacements and GBV are my favorite bands of all time. The Replacements are long gone but we still get the pleasure of listening Bob and the boys hopefully for years to come. And so what if is hi-fi, it beats rap, bubblegum (Britney, Backstreet boys), Korn, or whatever nonsense is being played around this world. Do your self a favor and buy this, and by all means by the rest of the GBV collection (Don't forget Bob and Tobin Sprout's solo work)."
GBV's best. Thats right. Their best!
Tim "circle of irony " Steele | the D | 05/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are anything like me: A dude with nothing better to do then read amazon reviews and even take advice from some of them (I get a kick out of the lists too) I'm sure you have read ad nauseam that this album and everyone after UTBUTS is an example of GBV's evil produced sound and should therefore be burned at the stake or meet a similar fate befitting the pure evil inherent in them. Well, I say it's time we give these people the state of Oregon and let them develop their own commune where they can ban motorized vehicles and any music not produced on a four track or worse. (They will come begging to us when they forget to produce toilet paper and other neccesities)...
I'm here to tell the people firmly rooted in reality that this is GBV's best album and, considering it came after the very great DO THE COLLAPSE (Ocasek can still bite me though), it's a shining example of Robert Pollard's peak song writing period. High praise indeed, considering the high quality of all GBV material, but I'm sticking to it.
Every song on here is at least very good and most are freakin great! From song 1-16 this is an incredibly strong album and show cases the many faces of Pollard. You want rockers? How bout "Pivotal Film", "Want One?", "Run Wild" or "Skills Like This" (a personal fav.) You want the 70's prog rock god? There's "The Enemy" or "Privately". Affecting quietier moments? Try "Sister I Need Wine", "Fine to See You" or the very personal "Hows My Drinking". Sugar coated pop-rock classics? Hit "Fair Touching", "Chasing Heather Crazy" and of course "Glad Girls". There is even "Frostman" for the BEE THOUSAND freaks. And I believe "Twilight Campfighter", "Unspirited" and "The Brides Have Hit Glass" to be examples of Uncle Bob at his song writing best...Thats all of them I believe. A strong song list indeed. Pound for pound GBV's very best studio album.
So there I said it: ISOLATION DRILLS rocks!!!...And while I'm at it, I got one more thing to get off my chest: I personally think BEE THOUSAND is a tad bit overrated and that some people say its their favorite because they feel bullied by the "lo-fi thought police". Sure its a classic and the most important step in the history of GBV, but to put it on this untouchable and undebatable pedestal...I better zip it now before I piss off the lo-fi, soon to be Oregonite freaks..."