Most music fans I know have in their collection albums they love, albums they should get rid of but can’t, and then this wide no man’s land of titles that they recognize as good, but rarely get played. Nothing wrong with them, for the most part, but they are part of a rotation of stuff that gets yanked out randomly when you need to give your favorites a rest. Maybe once a year, maybe once every couple of years.
Isolation Drills by Guided By Voices occupies that space for me. I’ve had it in my collection for a long time, and it has very little wear on it. I was in one of those bored moods today when I picked it up and popped it in the car stereo. For the first several tracks, I was starting to realize why I don’t listen to it often. It was something I could appreciate more than love.
My ears perked up at track seven, “Want One?” A cohesive sound was starting to develop, crunchy and catchy. A few tracks later came the epiphany – jangly, aggressive, and a vocal hook mammoth enough to skydive off of. “Hey hey, glad girls only want to get you high.”
It reminded me of hearing the Who on the radio when I was a kid, when rock and roll was still new to me. It starts with the chorus, and it’s thrilling every time it comes around again. It’s always a good sign when I’m singing a song before I’ve finished listening to it the first time. It’s exquisite power pop.
Why this never hit me this way before, I could only speculate. I have found through the years that things that have been hanging around in my periphery for years will sometimes pop into full focus. For no good reason, it finally clicks.
Apparently back in 2001 when Isolation Drills was released, Robert Pollard had some hope that the song would break big for GBV. He said this in an interview with Bomb Magazine. “I have people tell me that they have four-year-old kids who constantly sing ‘Teenage FBI’ and ‘Glad Girls’ and other songs of ours. And if four-year-old kids can sing it, then why can’t high school kids and college kids get into it? I don’t know. I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe we’re not capable of having a hit, we’re just not that kind of a band.”
I wasn’t the first one to miss it the first time around, and that’s a shame. Don’t know how often I’ll come back to the album, but I know I’ll be coming back for “Glad Girls.”
You can stream the new Guided By Voices album, Please Be Honest, on Vice’s Noisey site here.