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Guided by Voices 

Universal Truths and Cycles (Matador)

Bob Pollard is a natural. Is there anyone else with as intuitive a sense of melody or a nervier rock-god attack on the axe? Alas, the thing about being a natural is that it's all too easy for those lucky geniuses to fall off the rails. No one -- no one -- can reasonably exert quality control over an output the size of Pollard's. He's less prolific than profligate.

Enter Universal Truths and Cycles. The outside producers have been banished. Guided by Voices is back on Matador. And Bob's in the basement, chugging Budweiser and tossing off the most balanced album of his long career. Neither as bare-bones as Bee Thousand-era GBV, nor as amped-up as Mag Earwhig!, Universal Truths is nevertheless informed by the former's serendipitous quality and even more by the latter's '70s-rock swagger. "Skin Parade" starts out lo-fi before catapulting into Who-style ferocity, while first single "Everywhere With Helicopter" and live staple "Back to the Lake" are take-no-prisoners RAWK all the way through. Universal Truths is not only the album GBV fans have been waiting for; it's just focused enough to win Dayton's finest a new generation of fans.

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