Saying that Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard is a prolific songwriter is sort of like saying that Louis XIV ruled France for a while. (For those of you not versed in French history, ol’ Louis held the throne for 72 years.) Universal Truths & Cycles, depending on how you’re keeping track, is the 20th Guided By Voices LP proper, a tally that admittedly discounts the band’s countless live recordings, b-sides compilations and its two box sets (you get the picture). The album also marks their return to über-indie Matador Records. Having released their last two full-lengths on pseudo-indie/major label-wannabe TVT, the band had worked with two big-time producers, Ric Ocasek and Rob Schnapf, who respectively managed to add pop sheen and muscle to GBV’s rougher edges. While those experiments in competing with the big boys led to wonderfully precise and focused recordings, some purists pined for the lo-fi madness of days gone by.
With Truths & Cycles, Pollard and company have returned to their roots. Well, sort of. Recorded back home in Dayton, Ohio, with engineer and longtime friend Todd Tobias, the album is a bit rougher around the edges, but the album’s tighter musicianship, focus and and eye for arrangement and subtle detail shows that the boys obviously learned a few tricks from their days in the big-time studios.
One complaint leveled against Pollard over his career has always been his lack of self-censorship. Universal Truths & Cycles does clock in with 19 tracks, and while some of it could be categorized as filler, there are several classics on board–“Cheyenne,” “Storm Vibrations,” “Everything With Helicopters,” “Eureka Signs,” “Car Langvage” [sic] and “Back to The Lake”–that are sure to take their rightful place in the GBV canon. And even if there is a little bit of filler, Pollard’s work is still more interesting than most of the crap that passes for pop music these days.