by Mike Corrigan

Ever since Tobin Sprout voluntarily removed himself from Robert Pollard's roster of pop-rock renegades, Guided by Voices fans have lamented the loss of his songwriting and vocal contributions and have kept their ears to the ground for any hints of a possible reunion.

Well, Airport 5 and the resulting new disc, Tower in the Fountain of Sparks are just that -- the first full collaboration between the two in six years.

Proving that a long-distance relationship can work, Tower is -- considering its unorthodox assembly -- amazingly cohesive. Sprout recorded the music at his home studio in Leland, Mich. and Pollard added the vocals at the infamous Cro-Magnon studios in Dayton, Ohio. Over subdued arrangements and gentle, warm, Propeller-era production, Pollard applies his manic songwriting and impeccable melody craft.

Typical of Pollard's more ragged, experimental outings, the album contains numerous gems thrown in with a few numbers that don't come off completely successfully. But patient listeners are richly rewarded starting midway with the spare but luminous "Circle of Trim" which is immediately followed by the equally terrific "War & amp; Wedding." Other standouts include "Feathering Clueless" and the closer, "Remain Lodging (at Airport 5)" where Pollard wrings a catchy chorus out of the casual existential observation, "It's hard to be a drone/In a hive of women."

Considering the staggering amount of extra-GbV material Pollard is cranking out these days, its best not to question or to expound too much. Better to just let this stuff wash over you. And enjoy it while the taps are wide open.

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