When a band’s personnel radically changes, it usually heralds a brand-new direction. But when Guided by Voices leader Robert Pollard recruited Cleveland neo-glam rockers Cobra Verde to replace the shuffle of Dayton musicians who’d accompanied him on ten previous albums, the switch meant a return to his roots. In recent years GBV has won acclaim with a series of brilliant albums of murky, mostly home-recorded song fragments, but during the 80s the band quietly issued four albums (now collected on Box) of fully formed songs that wedded power-pop hooks to convoluted art-rock structures. The band’s new Mag Earwhig! recalls those earlier records, mixing hook-laden pop songs with winding epics. Pollard has even inserted an impenetrable story line between lyrics in the packaging, making good on the threat he voiced in Alternative Press to turn the record into a rock opera. The new band’s instrumental muscle also makes this Guided by Voices’ hardest rocking disc: Cobra Verde can be a bit overbearing on its own recordings, but as someone else’s band it’s a crack unit. Doug Gillard’s flashy, nimble guitar leads always illuminate, never obscure, and rhythm guitarist John Petkovic’s playing is relentlessly visceral. Don Depew (drums) and Dave Swanson (bass) make a dynamic and flexible rhythm section, negotiating the warped changes of “Mute Superstar” as convincingly as they bash out the primal, Stonesy beat of “Bulldog Skin.” Recent incarnations of Guided by Voices were masters of the rough sketch; this one uses finesse to illustrate the finer points of Pollard’s tunes. Cobra Verde and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments (see Spot Check) open. Thursday, June 12, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. BILL MEYER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by James Crump-RSP.