Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk
Philadelphia alterna-fuzz trio Purling Hiss' 2013 album Water on Mars was a collection of '90s-styled pop hooks buried in layers of alien guitar tones and other types of extraterrestrial obscurity. Bandleader/songwriter/singer/guitarist Mike Polizze's tunes on that record zigzagged between alienated grunge-pop, slightly psychedelic folk-leaning dirges, and all-out attacks of abrasive guitar rock, always channeling the ghost of one patron saint of '90s slackerdom or another. Much like Water on Mars, Purling Hiss' 2014 follow-up, Weirdon, manages to recall moments of early indie rock magic without losing the unique core of numbed bliss and erratic weirdness that centers Polizze's songwriting.
Mike Polizze’s worship of the guitar is so single-minded and unshakeable, at times it approaches Neil Young’s own devotion to the instrument. His long-running project Purling Hiss—which started as a solo affair before being fleshed out into a full band—hasn’t ever particularly sounded like Young’s Crazy Horse, but there’s a similar dynamic at play: one moment Polizze is pouring mud all over his lonesome folk ballads, and the next he’s punching the haywire distortion into noise-jam extremes. Purling Hiss’ most recent full-length, last year’s Water on Mars, was produced by fellow Philadelphian Adam Granduciel of the War on Drugs, and it showed a little more discipline and neatness without sacrificing any of Polizze’s prodigious, religious fretwork.
As Purling Hiss, songwriter and guitarist Mike Polizze has long straddled the line between straightforward garage pop and feedback-laden freak-outs. Beginning as a basement-recorded solo endeavor, with full-lengths like his 2009 self-titled debut and 2010’s Public Service Announcement capitalizing on the tape-recorded, lo-fi crackle the project’s namesake evokes, Purling Hiss morphed into a bona fide power trio with 2013’s Water on Mars. On that record, with the help of producer and fellow Philly native Adam Granduciel (of The War on Drugs), Polizze emerged from the blanket of ramshackle production qualities to more crisp, refined sonics, continuing the trend of his previous releases toward a cleaner, tighter sound.
Weirdon, the latest album from Purling Hiss, is not nearly as weird as its title suggests. These songs are catchy, tightly crafted and loaded with hooks that will tickle your brain for weeks and weeks. The record isn’t the masterpiece that many fans believe Purling Hiss will create one day, but its cool, blissful, thorny pop provides the perfect soundtrack to the beginning of fall.
The lo-fi thing can be tricky. For some, lo-fi could be viewed as a genre that forgives a certain lack of songwriting and instrumental skill, the genre’s overuse of distortion providing somewhat of a safe haven for what some may consider to be hack musicianship. For others, the genre’s simplicity correlates directly with the primal intensity that’s supposed to remain a core value for rock n’ roll music.
Philadelphia quartet Purling Hiss slow-cook punk anthems until they're perfectly seasoned with equal parts distortion, fuzz and psychedelia. And lucky us: the foursome's latest, Weirdon – a tightened extension of the staticky musings on their last record, 2013's Water on Mars – is their best batch yet. There's much to love here, from the lysergic twang of "Running Through My Dreams" to the playful pop perfection of "Aging Faces.'' The songs are tightly threaded by the band's mastermind Mike Polizze and his warbly drawl rhapsodizing about aging fast, learning slow and experiencing something profound during the moments in between.
All we really ask for is for that our music be finely crafted from the choicest notes and chords, and to bring enjoyment from repeated listens. Happily, no worries here. Purling Hiss, and front-man Mike Polizze, has propelled the evolution of his basic DIY solo roots, into a three-piece rock combo, and again into the frantic, manic and just downright catchy effort that is Weirdon.
Purling Hiss — Weirdon (Drag City)Purling Hiss’s Mike Polizze came of age in the 1990s, a time when indie and underground shared space with classic rock on radio and TV– after “punk broke” and before the crash of the majors. And Purling Hiss’s Weirdon represents what happens when ‘80s and ‘90s underground rock becomes internalized as a set of conventions, and gets recombined with familiar staples of the first wave of classic rock.Almost 30 years after You’re Living All Over Me and Daydream Nation, no one can knock Polizze’s deployment of the musical techniques of the Our Band Could Be Your Life-era. Weirdon does not sound like a nostalgic repetition, nor does it photocopy any one band’s sound.
For anybody keeping score, Weirdon is the seventh full-length Purling Hiss release listed on Drag City’s Purling Hiss discography page. Of those seven, three were released on Drag City. Of those three, only two were professionally recorded with the solidified power-trio lineup that frontman and garage rock mad scientist Mike Polizze has been touring with.
Purling Hiss Weirdon (Drag City) Purling Hiss continues its evolution from wild animal pyrotechnics to shaggy-dog pop on its fifth album Weirdon. "Learning Slowly," "I Don't Wanna Be a ...," and "Where's Sweetboy" bend the band's usual power trio dynamics to the will of leader Mike Polizze's tuneful ambitions while still leaving room for his six-string explosions. "Aging Faces," "Airwaves," and "Another Silvermoon" explore jangle pop by letting winsome melodies do the arm-twisting.