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Pulse Magazine
By Peter Melton

Keeping up with Guided by Voices' prolific Robert Pollard

There's prolific, and then there's Robert Pollard.
Keeping up with Guided by Voices' ever-productive
headman has pretty much evolved into a full-time job,
like cataloguing at the Library of Congress. Besides
GbV, Pollard throws himself into solo work and
collaborations with the intensity of a man who only
has a short time left on this planet.

We could count all the projects, but let's just say
there's a reason Pollard named one of his boxed sets
'Suitcase.' Here are three new releases to pack in the
luggage. 'Universal Truths and Cycles' (out 6/18)
returns GbV to its old indie label, Matador, and sheds
some of the studio gloss of its last two records ('Do
the Collapse' and 'Isolation Drills') while keeping
the fidelity higher. Everything is up to GbV standard:
the bursts of rock, psych and melody compacted into
hummable two-minute songs, festooned with trademark
surreal titles ("Christian Animation Torch Carriers,"
"Factory of Raw Essentials") and Pollard's
Brit-influenced Dayton soul singing. GbV has sharpened
its attack to a fine point, and there's no waste in
cuts like "Pretty Bombs," "Back to the Lake" and "Car
Language." Acoustic guitar adds a delicate touch to
such songs as "Cheyenne," "Zap" and "The Weeping
Bogeyman," adding a subtle beauty to GbV's sonic

Pollard does his most straightforward work with his
main band these days and gets more experimental on
side projects. Go Back Snowball (#17 in the Fading
Captain Series, cataloguers) is a musical meeting with
Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, and the results will
surprise fans of both. Mostly ditching the indie-rock
approach that made his name, McCaughan goes for a
layered, eclectic approach on 'Calling Zero' (out now
on Rockathon) that meets about halfway his Portastatic
style, complete with ambient, fuzzy keyboards,
electronic percussion and even horns. Every song is
sonically different; no two sounds are alike. Pollard
alters his style just enough to capture the nuances in
the songs, as on "It is Divine" and its impressions of
childhood summers. He hits every one of McCaughan's
sonic curveballs for a solid base hit.

Longtime GbV fans know that Tobin Sprout was the
band's secret weapon, adding unique gems to every
album during his tenure. Airport 5's 'Life Starts
Here' (out now on Rockathon; #18 in the Fading Captain
Series, if you're keeping score at home) reteams
Sprout and Pollard, but the results are underwhelming
by the standards the two have set on past releases.
The songs are too monochromatic, as if these two
lively aural painters were determined to limit the
palette to the darkest shades. Maybe it sounds better
at night.