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Baltimore City Paper
Guided By Voices
Universal Truths and Cycles
Guided by Voices first pitched its rock-revival tent back in the mid 1980s, but it was its 1994 album Bee Thousand that lured people from their homes to see what the fuss was all about. And 1995's Alien Lanes hooked them, shuffling full-blown tailgate anthems, itty-bitty song scraps, and lo-fi tape hiss together with a cooler full of longnecks. From there, GBV minister Robert Pollard took his group hi-fi, issuing a string of arena-ready records. Last year's Isolation Drills was a step back toward the smaller-is-better ethos, but on the new Universal Truths and Cycles GBV really refinds its voice. Pollard and company don't sound like they're trying to party like it's 1995, but they are content to stop reaching for spots on the Billboard charts and instead reach for more Bud Light.
Cycles is Lanes: Episode II, a shambolic retread dressed in nicer clothes. It's the first GBV outing since Lanes with no faulty parts or coliseum-sized pretensions. The whip-crack ignition of "Wire Greyhounds" does its job in 36 seconds before launching into the barbwired guitar strut of "Skin Parade," which segues into folk-tinged beauty of "Zap"; the tender "Pretty Bombs" soars sweetly on a lush blanket of strings. When Pollard joyously if meaninglessly sings "Knees and trees are lovely/ Secret find the door" on "Everywhere With Helicopter," you get the impression that the weight of achieving mainstream success has finally been lifted off his shoulders--and you can't help but sing along.