Guided by Voices- Universal Truths and Cycles (2002)

"I can write six songs while sitting on the toilet, and three of them will be good."
--Robert Pollard

It's always a tasking argument when it comes to the importance of quality and quantity. There is hardly a population of artists that can accomplish both. Those of who we associate with this trait are folks like Frank Zappa, Sun Ra or even Pollard himself, though there are some uncomfortable exceptions. Some people have pinpointed that there was a stopping point in the Guided by Voices catalog, but I can hardly believe that some would cut it off before 2002. To cut off Universal Truths and Cycles hurts my heart more than it could hurt Pollard's; it's been such a long time since I've heard an incredible rock album like this.

For those accustomed to the two minutes-or-less, scratchy structures of the old GBV material, the production quality will be the most obvious factor to jump out. The cohesiveness between the songs has also improved over the years, but that isn't the only change. Since the classic lineup's split, the band brought in two former members of the Breeders for their new lineup started in '98; they also jumped around record labels before returning to Matador.

In my mind I divide this album like it is on the LP, split down the middle between the hefty 19 tracks that sprawl across it like a landscape. A quick, catchy introduction by "Wire Greyhounds" shows that Pollard didn't leave his good tunes back in the toilet bowl. Following after, "Skin Parade" delivers a sonic grind of trippy riffage and word play. The album takes a break from this experimentation come track five and whisks over a breath of poppy hooks in "Cheyenne"; I am still surprised that this wasn't a huge radio hit. While this was also one of the highest chart topping GBV album's at the time of it's release, it seems to have been long forgotten, buried underneath the heaps of Pollard releases to follow. It's really hard not to love an album that can manage to squeeze in the dessert crème brûlée as a lyric.

The songs on the record fluctuate around the traditional two minute mark, but there's also some that may venture passed four minutes: an uncommon trait for the band. "Car Language" is one of these uncommon slow burners, but the intense build through the track is rewarding. Though it isn't hard to reach the end of the album, the title track "Universal Truths and Cycles" is definitely a treat for anyone able to stick it out, set on a heavy-ass, infectious groove. In the closing song, the record ends on a positive note with Pollard repetitively singing "so God bless you." After the final click of closure from my record player, I tend to take this blessing to heart. The world of music is truly blessed to have a band like Guided by Voices around, who even after years of servitude are able to still deliver their own quality brand of ever-evolving music.


Technology vs. Horse

It is really criminal the amount of local acts and artists that go so easily unnoticed. What's surprising is that they're really not hard to find. Attend a show at Skull Alley with a five-for-one ticket lineup and you are sure to find a band that you absolutely love. Good talent is everywhere, but it comes in such a large dose that it may seem overwhelming for somebody just delving into the local scene. There is really nothing more exciting than witnessing and communicating with these great acts so up close. It's such a different feel from seeing a performer standing hundreds of heads away on a stage; something gets lost in that distance.
Last week I saw Bowling Green, Kentucky-based band Technology vs. Horse at Derby City Espresso in Louisville. It is clear that these men were not meant to be confined in their hometown, their sound descending far past what you would expect from their origin. On the group's latest effort Bearula: The Bear Dracula, they reveal a broad spectrum of influences that make this sound fairly difficult to pinpoint. The only things that come to mind are the likes of Zappa and Mike Patton: both iconic and prolific with their talent to create boundless concoctions of records. Technology vs. Horse seem to be fueled by this kind of inconsistency, with each of their albums sounding not only more progressive than the last, but also increasingly pleasing to the ears. These dudes are no strangers to fluctuating with the structures of rock music.
In person, the band is an odd bunch, described by singer Michael Farmer as an "unfuckable Roxy Music." It isn't uncommon to catch one of them donning a vampire cape during a show, and a hell of a show it is. While playing a set in front of a projection of Down by Law, Farmer (also known as the Kentucky Prophet) makes it a point to keep the experience interactive. Not only are you getting to hear great music, there is also definitely a tinge of entertainment to the show. It's rumored that the band may return to Louisville in October for a Nosferatu-themed set, but one can only hope this to be true.
With new bands starting up every day, it's sometimes hard to weed out the ones who really put forth an effort to stand out. Bands like Technology vs. Horse should be celebrated for this. While we're in a time when originality is white-washed over with gimmicks and effects, there are still bands like these that can completely blow you away. It's so refreshing to hear this new music that doesn't leave a pre-processed taste in your mouth. Keep a watch on these guys, they bound for supreme recognition.

Bearula:The Bear Dracula (2009)