Isolation Drills appendix: The Saga of Frostman

31 Jan

I had a lot of fun writing about Isolation Drills yesterday, and it got me thinking about the songs leftover from those sessions. In particular is a favorite of mine that could use some attention, and it’s sort of related to “Frostman.”

The simple lo-fi charm of “Frostman” makes it a stand out track on Isolation Drills. It’s one of Bob’s great sub-minute acoustic ditties, a lineage that also includes such gems as “Tropical Robots” and “Indian Fables.”

In 2008, an alternate version of “Frostman” was released as a b-side to Pollard’s “Miles Under the Skin” single. This recording, dubbed the “long version,” is presumably a demo that predates the album version. Here, the song is fleshed out with a second verse and signature riff in the form of an overdubbed lead guitar.

It’s that guitar riff that connects “Frostman” to another song. Released on Suitcase 2 in 2005, “Color Coat Drawing” is labeled as an Isolation Drills demo outtake. It seems that perhaps it never made it out of the demo stage, instead donating its riff and maybe some chords to the long version of “Frostman” that was subsequently shortened into the album track.

Whatever the case may, “Color Coat Drawing” is a breathtaking song, one of Bob’s sad-but-uplifting numbers.  While it does not have a melody as instantly appealing as “Frostman,” its slow, deliberate pace makes every chord change or melodic twist count. Totally engrossing. Bob’s delivery and the enigmatic lyrics make it surprisingly emotional. The chugging riff would sound right at home with the other Isolation Drills songs, but this spare demo has a undefinable hypnotic beauty to it that maybe would not translate to a full band arrangement — although I for one was hoping for a Boston Spaceships remake. But at the very least, I’m grateful to have this demo to listen to and ponder its place in Pollard’s canon. Another great tune that fell through the cracks.


I was going to place these songs earlier in the post, but didn’t want to detract from the main subject matter. Here they are:

Buy ’em
Frostman – Isolation Drills
Frostman (long version) – Miles Under the Skin single
Color Coat Drawing – Suitcase 2
Indian Fables – Fast Japanese Spin Cycle
Tropical Robots – Hold on Hope EP


5 Responses to “Isolation Drills appendix: The Saga of Frostman”

  1. Daren Follweiler January 31, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    I’ve made iTunes playlists of all of your alternate song orders. Robert’s Pollard’s account on Facebook linked to your “Broadcaster House” post, and just this morning I commented: “I took the liberty of substituting the long version of “Frostman” in my playlist of it…”

  2. Martin in Space January 31, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Somehow “Color Coat Drawing” reminds me of “Unstable Journey” from Vampire on Titus…

    • Dan January 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

      yes!! you’re absolutely right. there’s a lyric at the end of “unstable journey” about “opening and closing” that always reminds me of “color coat drawing”

  3. John February 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    There is apparantely a long version of Tropical Robots on one of the Briefcase albums. I’d love to hear that.

    • Dan February 1, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

      i have that one. it’s interesting but not the same as the long “frostman.” sounds like a demo, real basic and stripped down, live to cassette. some spirited strumming from bob. it’s longer because after the normal part ends, it goes into this slow bridge section that’s totally different from the rest of the song. then it reprises the first verse.

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