Ok, so this one is a bit of a relief for me: it would have been tragic to have two reissues by one of my favorite indie rock bands, Guided By Voices (GBV), turn out to be awful on one Record Store Day (RSD). Thankfully, the reissue of their 2001 album Isolation Drills sounds way way way better than the reissue of 1999’s Do The Collapse (covered previously here on Audiophilereview).
Why is this one so much better? Well, first off it doesn’t hurt my ears to listen to it! Seriously! And it sounds at least as good as the original TVT Records pressings from 2001, and in some ways it sounds a bit warmer.
This reissue (and the original LP for that matter) sounds fuller than the CD version (which you completists out there will want to own anyhow due to different art work there)
Now, as I’ve said before in my GBV reviews, the notion of reviewing this group’s releases for an audiophile type publication may appear a bit silly on the surface as this band was / is the king of all things lo-fi and low budget. However, for a brief period between the mid 1990s and 2004 they did ascend to near-major label stature and made a bunch of fine sounding rock records that were sonically and musically much more consistent that their earlier albums.
There was literally a different band of musicians — and probably an accompanying different larger budget — backing main songwriter, singer and group founder Robert Pollard during this period. So if you are not into the whole lo-fi thing but are looking for some “good sounding” Guided By Voices records to check out, albums like this one along with Universal Truths and Cycles and Do The Collapse (note: just not the RSD reissue!) are good places to start exploring the band.
Much of the band’s output on vinyl has been out of print for a long time, with the albums and singles commanding high collectors prices online. So its nice to have many of their most popular records back in print.
I recently obtained an original black vinyl pressing of Isolation Drills used (you rarely see them, so I grabbed it while I could!). But, on RSD, I went ahead and purchased this reissue in hopes of perhaps better sound. I’m not disappointed with this re-release — it sounds at least as good as my original and in some instances better, with an overall warmer sound stage and more enjoyable sense of listenability. The opaque blue vinyl is pretty thick (probably 140 or 150 gram) and well centered, quite quiet and sonically overall transparent.
At the end of the day its all about the songs and there some gems here, from the infectious power pop of “Glad Girls” to the haunting Who-like waltz of album closer “Privately” replete with its string sections, big guitar tones and multi-tracked lead vocals. Album opener “Fair Touching” sounds (in retrospect) like an outtake from REM’s Murmer album, replete with chiming jangly electric guitars, mumbled lead vocals and cryptic lyrics and room for your own interpretation. In fact, the song’s last line is “The song you sing will have meaning…”
Doug Gillard’s chuncky guitars on “Skills Like This” sound positively huge and very late-70s-Townsend-esque against Pollard’s Daltry-1967-flavored-vocals. I like this version of the band which played with a sense of vigor that the original incarnation hinted at in the studio (and eventually pulled off rather righteously when they got back together in 2012).
Seriously, imagine if the Who’s Next-era Who were playing a tune written for The Archies, it might sound like “Chasing Heather Crazy.”
(Can you imagine Archies singer Ron Dante backed by The Who? OMG…)
So, yeah, if you like peak period Who and aren’t familiar with Guided By Voices, you might well like this album. Really.
Isolation Drills is a fine Guided By Voices record from this later period of the band and I’m glad this reissue seems to have been done correctly.
“It’s was sure fine to see you
Delicious and thank you for coming
There is nowhere to go but up
You know that for I tell you”