With the rising popularity of neo-garage bands, if ever there were a time for Guided by Voices (GBV)—arguably the grandaddy practitioners of alt-vintage aesthetics—this is it.

With the rising popularity of neo-garage bands, if ever there were a time for Guided by Voices (GBV)—arguably the grandaddy practitioners of alt-vintage aesthetics—this is it. Wisely, the ever-prolific Robert Pollard-fronted ensemble scraps the experimentation with high-gloss production that dominated its last two outings and returns to its stripped-down roots. The result is some of the band's loosest and most rewarding work in years. Universal Truths and Cycles also showcases some of the best songwriting from Pollard since GBV's much-revered Bee Thousand. The formula still hasn't changed much: Pollard remains the master of the two-minute song fragment, and his lyrics are, as always, a stream of consciousness barrage (artful impressionism and curious non-sequitirs). This time out, the melodies are stronger (the pop gem "Cheyene") and the hooks crisper (exhibit A: the album's first single "Everywhere With Helicopter") than much of GBV's recent fare. The fact that the band can deliver such a consistent and relevant collection of work 13 albums into its career makes Universal Truths and Cycles all the more impressive.—BG