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Brad Cawn

Guided By Voices
Universal Truths and Cycles
Matador Records

Though nearing 50, and with an ego checked by two overly slick mainstream crossover attempts that never materialized, Guided by Voices' captain/resident lunatic Robert Pollard is still the biggest rock star in his own world, a psychedelic stalwart who so transcends the indie rock landscape that he could record himself in a bathroom and his faithful would declare its genius.

The good news is that his group's return to indie label Matador -- where he released two of the best power pop records of all time, '94's Bee Thousand and '96's Under the Bushes, Under the Stars -- also marks the return of the drunk-guy-with-a-tape-recorder aesthetic that helped provide GBV's best moments, which is why fans might finally have a proper companion to the arena-in-my-closet-rock of '95's Alien Lanes.

As much as this is a fairly sharp studio affair, the ol' "Budweiser Bob" spirit is certainly back, and Universal Truths and Cycles is filled with those mini-epics of alternate universe power rock ("Christian Animation Torch Carriers," "Everywhere with Helicopter") and hangover ballads ("Zap," "Car Language") that have no equal when Pollard's on.