Polvo? Really? Polvo?
Chris Woods would scoff – “This is total fucking garbage.” He was Polvo’s harshest critic. As the always divisive, North Carolina band reunite this year, the torrent of indie 90’s nostalgia has reached a lame threshold. Will the masses buy a new Love Battery album, is it too soon for a Number One Cup whirlwind tour, did anybody actually listen to Duster? Sure, I’d be happy to see this show in some small capacity, feverish and wound up – I’m as guilty as the others in the enclave of devotees that possess all the records, they were one of those fringy second-tier bands (Silkworm, Elf Power, Bevis Frond) that made you feel like you were part of the club and hence had to have all the collectible cards.
Polvo weren’t that prolific, but they did manage to glide through some expansive and tricky terrain during their tenure. Blending Middle-Eastern echoes with imbalanced rhythms and time shifts, thousand-yard stares and full-frontal guitar skronk, they made albums that were woozy and relentless at the same time. It was in the EPs though that Polvo shined. Particularly the point where I theorize they peaked, the This Eclipse extended player that fell right between Today’s Active Lifestyles and what many consider their epic Exploding Drawing. I’m a fanboy for everything, personally I adore Cor-Crane Secret (perhaps just for the honesty and scruffiness of the recording), and Exploded Drawing has thee best songs of the catalog but is marred by blind ambition. This Eclipse though is the perfect concentration of a band that must be ingested in moderation.
Chris Woods is kinda’ right after all, the detuned strings and oft-putting shredding do rattle and disorient -- they try hard to meditate at times but rarely come up for air. These five songs though, tend to go down easy. “Bat Radar” a cleaner, polished, take on the quirky math rock of the beginning, better paced and readable, maybe the first time they actually thought of themselves as compositional guys and not just stoned travelers. This goes right into perhaps my favorite song by the band, “Bombs That Fall From Your Eyes” is Polvo’s “Grounded,” a prosaic exercise through the post-rock wasteland and the chunky proto-metal mirror (solidifying them as a group as good as Slint and Chavez), gorgeous and brutal. This Eclipse present them with chops, plenty different cuts too, they could hold their own in jazzy instrumental cheek-talk and monolithic sparkling sludge. Treat it as one sonically conceptual piece, an iceberg even, and warm up to it.
But back to these reunions…
If you’re in a band contemplating re-uniting…don’t drag it out unless you planning on recording an album that’s at least as good as your good band’s worst (Lemonheads, Dino Jr., Mission of Burma). Play one or two shows. Here Polvo get a pass, but I’d love to hear something new, as Shapes I thought was going to an interesting place that never was found. Oh well, me, I’m holding out hope for a full-scale Olivia Tremor Control tour, complete with new album.