Having followed the growing recognition and progressively commercial production of the last few Guided By Voices albums, I was asking the same question that many of the band's fans and music industry followers have been asking--Is this the one? Will Isolation Drills be the commercial breakthrough that GBV's Robert Pollard has admittedly been seeking--the chance to hear his own music on the radio? It could be; and it should be. The album delivers all the hooks you've come to expect from a band known for its canon of beautiful moody pop songs, but it's Rob Schnapf's (Beck, Elliot Smith, Foo Fighters) huge, chunky, "arena rock" production that helps make the music both accessible and powerful.
Isolation Drills won't disappoint GBV's existing fans; in fact, the disc offers some interesting new territory for exploration. The delicate, haunting "Sister I Need Wine," in particular, makes you ache to hear more in this vein, sounding like something from a movie soundtrack you'd love to see Pollard finish scoring. There are also songs of girls and exultation. The instantly memorable "Chasing Heather Crazy" and "Glad Girls" are so melodic and hook-laden that they epitomize the notion of perfect, two-minute pop tunes; they beg for immediate repeat button hits on first listening.
Other highlights showcase the album's diversity. "The Brides Have Hit Glass" and "How's My Drinking" both offer a bit of Pollard's open, occasionally sarcastic introspection, making Isolation Drills decidedly more personal than other GBV offerings. "The Enemy" flirts with Pollard's beloved hard rock, both in its anthemic structure and bleak lyrics (Blue Oyster Cult anyone?). Isolation Drills is one of Guided By Voices' best efforts: It's a solid album with something for everyone. Let's hope it's "the one," if radio success means that Pollard and company will be allowed to continue producing music of this caliber.