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August 2002
Peter Bothum

Guided By Voices
Universal Truths and Cycles
Matador Records

Rating: Five out of five bombs
On the last two Guided By Voices albums, it seemed as if main man Robert Pollard was looking to see if there were anymore hot freaks out there.

Maybe he hoped he could please hardcore GBV fans and new listeners simultaneously with the straight-forward rocking Do The Collapse and last year’s power-chord heavy and personally charged Isolation Drills.

Both of those records featured top-notch production, tight tunes and, in all honesty, an aim to reach out to potential new GBV followers.

But on Universal Truths And Cycles, released on GBV’s old label, Matador, Pollard is only writing for himself.

As advertised, it is indeed a marriage between the mature, poetic, multi-layered songs on Isolation Drills and the more rocking, free-wheeling songs-from-another-galaxy found on 1995’s Alien Lanes or even the ancient Self Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia.

Pollard and company have the jets roaring at lift-off — things kick off with a 36-second blast called “Wire Greyhounds” that recalls the odd fragments on Alien Lanes.

And, with that, we’re off on yet another wild ride through a GBV album.

Guitarist Doug Gillard stars in the climbing anthemic eruption “Christian Animation Torch Carriers,” which probably came out of one of Pollard’s prog-rock wet dreams.

Only Phil Specter could have coaxed a catchier “Wall of Sound” out of the band than Pollard and co-producer Todd Tobias did on “Cheyenne.” “Everywhere With Helicopter,” “Eureka Signs” and “Father Sgt. Christmas Card” — every time this record slips into a groove where there’s even a hint of slowing down, Pollard smacks you in the face with another rocker.

Acoustic snippets ride side by side with thumping epics on this latest trip into the delightfully twisted and creative side of Robert Pollard’s mind.

It’s nice to be back.