By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
By Jena Ardell
By Mary Willson
By Bree Davies
By Tom Murphy
By Tom Murphy
Back when Robert Pollard's liver was pinker, Guided By Budweiser earned its cult stripes with a foolproof formula: It created jillions of lo-fi, anthem-baiting sketches that recalled mid-period Beatles/Who, sported intentionally vague lyrics and rarely exceeded two minutes. Pollard hasn't stopped honoring his forefathers of the British Invasion -- he still bows and scrapes to Her Majesty's tastiest power chords -- but these days he's letting the songs breathe longer. And rendering them cleaner. The pseudo-ponce-inflected accent hasn't gone anywhere (demonstrating the easiest way to pick Daytonites out of a crowd), and when bandmembers come and go (nearly forty have twirled through the group's revolving door), it leaves a fella perplexed about his very beechwood-aged existence.
Out with the phone books, the hunting knives, the kicking of elves: Pollard has turned a brutal eye on himself. He's a one-man fighter squadron on a mission, a stubborn wordsmith on a permanent bar stool. "How's My Drinking?" highlights Isolation Drills as an uneasy confessional -- funny enough to grace bumper stickers but guaranteed to make a den mother good and MADD. Most of the time the sound is happy-go-bombastic, recalling the explosive arena days of BIG rock. Pollard continues to master metaphor and wit with stealth and understatement. He's preoccupied with corporeal sensations, too: light passing through himself, bodily fluids such as ink and wine. You know -- poetry.
No fewer than three instant classics ("Fair Touching," "Chasing Heather Crazy" and especially "Run Wild") clear the tarmac for war stories about poker-faced bingo players, predatory love and finding solace in times of martial law. It's a good listen from stern to helm, but most amazing at this point in Pollard's career is that he actually expectsto break into the FM rotation! In a perfect world, things like that would happen all the time -- stodgy program directors would branch out from the mighty Zep -- but this is war, soldier. Buck up!
Pollard pulls off plenty of smaller miracles, though: Throwback acoustic palate-cleansers like "Frostman," chamber-accompanied balladry ("Unspirited," "Privately"), glorious squall and drone ("Pivotal Film"), and pop so perfect that it's annoying ("Glad Girls"). Turning soil where scenesters fear not tread but classic-rock fans stomp, the man who came to prominence declaring "I Am a Scientist" benefits greatly from producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Foo Fighters, Elliott Smith). In contrast to its previous gloss-induced effort, Do the Collapse (a lukewarm project during which Ric "Candy" Ocasek purportedly barred beer coolers from the studio), Drills finds GBV's frontman at his pickled best. Alone in a rental at 43. Endorsing Converse and Wiedemann's lager. Blah blah genius, blah, masterpiece, blah.