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Cineman Music For 30-Aug-2002
Steven Israel

Guided By Voices
Universal Truths and Cycles
Matador Records

Guided by Voices' new album, "Universal Truths and Cycles," is a perfect "best of both worlds" entity. Having made their name as lo-fi avatars, this talented group of middle-aged white men created their last couple of albums in real recording studios with big name producers overseeing the formerly haphazard and drunken proceedings. The resultant records, 1999's "Do the Collapse" and 2001's "Isolation Drills" were good but did not have the mainstream success the band and their record label had hoped for. Nor did the albums satisfy the passionate fans the band had earned with its four-track masterpieces "Bee Thousand" and "Alien Lanes." Well,  "Universal Truths and Cycles" probably won't crack the top 40 - or top 400 for that matter - but it should be a more satisfactory experience for the fans, wedding as it does the homemade feel of GBV's mid-'90s work with a little more studio savvy. The end result is not slick, but neither is it amateurish. For those who have never heard this band, it is an appropriate introduction: 19 tracks, arranged in the classic GBV fashion wherein very short songs (one runs only 40 seconds!) are interspersed with longer (3 or 4 minute) songs to create a unique, flowing and organic sounding album.

The music itself has a sort of timeless quality that is a result of mixture  of the "Three P's" of rock 'n roll music: pop, prog and punk. It is all held together by irascible ringleader Robert Pollard, singing like a Beatle his mysterious yet enticing lyrics. "Universal Truths and Cycles" may sound to some like a trip to another planet where the linear history of rock and roll has been ignored and the epochs blended together, creating a new yet strangely familiar sound. Given the title of the album, maybe that's exactly the effect the band was seeking.