Guided By Voices, Isolation Drills (TVT Records): Isolation Drills has been on repeat all morning. "Fair Touching" kicks off the new album — for the thirteenth time. This jangly pop-rock touches me more with each play. Where once I discarded it as soft and shallow, I now feel pop's power, thanks to GBV leader and vocalist Robert Pollard's poetic, poignant lyrics. Pollard is the brain of today's pop — his songs have depth and feeling. Produced by Robert Schnapf (who's worked with Beck, Foo Fighters and Elliot Smith), the twelfth full-length release from cult legends Guided By Voices rocks with Brit-pop sensibilities and Elliot Smith-like airiness. (Smith, by the way, adds keyboards to three of the songs.) Broken up by a few melancholy ballads, the album is mostly upbeat and infectiously melodic. Pollard's songs make you wake with a chorus running through your head. Take "Chasing Heather Crazy," which is so uplifting you can't help but sing along. Pollard shifts cleverly from passionate wails to swift speak-singing where the words run together like watercolor: "Staring out from otherworldly windows painted red/ Doesn't have to listen to the voices in your head/ That's a different lie/ Do you remember what was said?" The explosive, high-energy "Glad Girls" is reminiscent of early '90s alt-rock (think of The Replacements, but softer); its catchy, cheery quality makes you smile. "Fine to See You," with a Michael Stipe-style vocal and delicate guitar lines, is one of the album's few low-key tracks. Constant throughout the record are Pollard's lyrics. Whether honest and confessional ("One day I will know/ That it's a waste of time/ And there's a better road ahead of me/ I just don't know how to make it there/ So I'll just hang around and take my chance/ Once again I'll roll the dice/ And try to hang on to my shrinking paradise" from "The Brides Have Hit the Glass") or imaginative and deep ("Wooden heads on the chopping block/ And other hearts pumping ink/ That spills out over dreams of antiquity/ Pale but full of ghostly charm/ Leave your things in the streets/ And run wild" from "Run Wild"), Pollard's songwriting is always ingenious. Such creative prose, set against the melodic but edgy layers of guitar, bass, drums and, infrequently, piano and cello, gives Isolation Drills meaning. Yes, it's fun rockin' pop. But, unlike a lot of today's pop music, Guided By Voices keep their depth. — Jenny Tatone

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