Universal Truths & CyclesArtist: Guided By Voices
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''Universal Truths and Cycles'' is the thirteenth (official) album by Dayton, Ohio indie rock group Guided by Voices. After releasing their previous two albums on TVT Records, Guided by Voices returned to Matador Records.
This was the highest charting Guided by Voices album at the time of release. It peaked at #160 on the Billboard Top 200, #10 on the Independent Albums list, and in the best chart performance of their career, #3 on the Top Heatseekers chart . - WikipediaRobert Pollard's release from the TVT label, with whom he had irreconcilabledifferences, and return to his old Matador home, is something he desired as astrong-willed, independent artist. But is it an improvement artistically? If oneconsiders his tenure with TVT as his attempt to go for a bigger audience thanthe 100,000 or so he usually sells-by honing and editing his material fora bigger label into the best it could be, then working with a strong producerto make it sound deeper-then his return to a more organic, less arduous approachcould feel like a step back, a white flag waved, a surrender from the truly transcendentGBV we saw last time on the band's most developed LP, the climacteric IsolationDrills. (Note, though, that the results of that path were never guaranteed-asRic Ocasek's overproduction of GBV's previous TVT LP, Do the Collapse,proved!)
That said, if the new Universal Truths is slightly more fundamental sonically,it's just the same highly-motivated work of a writing genius. It is an immenserelief to find that Pollard is adhering to far more rigorous standards of qualitycontrol than he ever did in the mid-90s. At the same time, taking control in thestudio again has not meant a return to that era's then-fresh, now dated lo-fisonic values. So if GBV does not seek Isolation Drills' disquietingambiance and confessional lyrics (a rare glimpse provided into Pollard'sthen-collapsing marriage and his new life as a post-family-man single, simultaneouslyexciting and sad), it's still another flat-out fantastic, brisk, and unbelievablyhooky rock 'n' roll LP!
Someday Pollard really will run out of great songs; of new ideas; of the kindof tunes others spend whole lifetimes trying to write just once-yeah, whenhe's dead. Once again, the lack of unfinished fragments or filler makes UniversalTruths a fabulous pleasure. As soon as one monster hook subsided, anothersurfaces, like your coffee cup being filled 19 times by the same zealous waitress.It can be the ringing chords, streamlined vocal, and crash of the drums of "StormVibrations" and "Eureka Signs"; or the soaring, '60s pop confectionof The Hollies-like "Cheyenne" complete with chiming xylophone bells;or the Wire-esque stutter-chords of "Car Language" and the 6/8-timerapid waltz, "Back to the Lake"; or the solitude of the acoustic-swayin "Factory of Raw Essentials," "The Ids Are Alright," orcold-water-fresh vignette, "Zap"; or the surprising string-quartet thatpops in, Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby"-style, throughout "PrettyBombs"; or the classic GBV wild, careening, multi-suite "Christian AnimationTorch Carriers," which includes Doug Gillard's tangled, string-bendingguitar leads. With all of Pollard's twists and turns, you never know what'scoming, but it's all so cool, so catchy, and most of all, it's moreexuberant than a class full of the fourth graders Pollard once taught, out onrecess.
Pollard is still teaching. You'd do well to take every course he gives.
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