Pass the dust, I think I'm Bowie
* special introductory paragraph!
* Can I Ride double-7"
* Vibracobra 7"
* Cor-Crane Secret
* El Cid 7"
* Tilebreaker 7"
* Today's Active Lifestyles
* Celebrate The New Dark Age EP
* This Eclipse EP
* Exploded Drawing
* Shapes
* In Prism
* Heavy Detour 7"

This is the band I've seen live more than any other - 16 times in a span of three and a half years. And anybody who has sat down and spent time learning to love the band's dissonant beauty can't blame me a bit. As far as taking basic pop song structure and teaching it to do things that basic pop song structure isn't supposed to do, Polvo have always been 'on the ball' and 'ahead of their game' and 'at the top of the league' and 'never once having trouble with Phil Niekro's infamous knuckleball,' rivalled only by fellow geniuses The Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and tinny guitar pioneers Sonic Youth. So what makes Polvo as good as or better than these two bands? Well, nothing really. They write some great songs, though! Mr. Ashley Bowie drags his fingers up and down the strings, makes little squiggly noises with his "whangy bar" as musicians call it, and bounces his pick up and down on the fretboard for her pleasure while Mr. David Brylawski plays groovin' classic rock-type chords smooth as marmoleum, Mr. Steven Popson thuds and bwoomps a heavy ass rhythmic bass, and Mr. Eddie Watkins drums until he quits and Brian Walsby replaces him.

So Polvo began as a basic Sonic Youth/Dinosaur Jr. indie rock follower band, quickly progressed into a challenging bright young weird guitar combo, then settled into a comfortable role as creative poptone strummers, more concerned with recording memorable music Beatles style than with continuing to introduce listeners to the many delightful noises made possible by modern electric musical equipment. They're from Chapel Hill, NC, which is where I went to college which is why I've seen them live so many times. Oh that Cat's Cradle. And hey, how about that Local 506? And hey! I nearly forgot La Terraza! Oh, the times I had. I hated my classes, sure, but it was a fine little town with some great musical bands for me to enjoy - Polvo, Superchunk, Erectus Monotone (Raleigh, but that counts....), Flat Duo Jets, Zen Frisbee, Pipe, Wiggle - oh, the names just go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Polvo was the best, though.

Can I Ride double-7" - Kitchen Puff 1990 (re-released as Polvo EP on Jesus Christ Records 1995)
Rating = 9

This is just your basic hip '90s guitar indie rock - but good! Putting a clear emphasis on hook creation (rather than the annoying tinny dissonance that so ruined many a fine mid-period Sonic Youth song), these timid young lads make it clear that you don't have to feign angst or scream like a monkey to create bold suave young music (although, if you want to make loads of cash, you probably should; kids just love angst and screaming monkeys); you just need to have half a brain and a decent voice. Ash "David Jones" Bowie has both. (Did you hear that, Mr. Bowie??? You have half a brain!!! Maybe I should rethink my compliments.) There are seven songs on this EP, and six of them are fantastic. A couple of weak vocals threaten to strip the tunes of their low-rent grandeur, but only barely. Even if the melodies weren't great (they are), the guitars slide, slither, and buzz like only music made on a limited budget can (especially in the otherworldly instrumental "Snake Fist Fighter"), and the whole stinging garagey tone of the record just tears the roof of the place, emotionally speaking. I use too many parentheses (go fuck yourself).

I don't know, dude. I don't listen to it every day, but it definitely deserves at least an 8 1/2 if only to celebrate the fact that they could come up with this many killer pop anthems at such an early point in their career. Heck, a well respected Raleigh music critic named Ross Grady once stated that it was the only Polvo record he could even sit through! So do yourself a favor and follow the advice of a well respected Raleigh music critic; I haven't actually bought it for myself, but that's only because it went out of print one second after it went on sale.

Add your thoughts?

Vibracobra 7" - Rockville 1991
Rating = 8

This early recording of "Vibracobra" lacks the arpeggiated intro of the LP version and is marred by a trebly over-reverbed mix, yet its compositional strength and Eastern-tinged atmosphere shine through loud and clear like a beacon in the night of seatime. But enough of this ASS-KISSING BULLSHIT, let's talk about the b-side.

"The Drill" is the first Polvo song that I ever loved. I'm pretty sure I'd already seen and been confused by the band's live show once or twice before they added this song to their set list (though I can't verify this -- it was half my life ago); my new-fangled college friends loved this local group (at the expense of Dillon Fence!), but to me their double-single sounded like Sonic Dinosaur and the unreleased live songs just sounded like hookless weird ugliness to me -- like Sonic Youth done wrong. If you've heard Cor-Crane Secret, maybe you can understand why I felt this way! That is one strange 'indie rock' release.

But when I heard them play "The Drill" for the first time, I went bogus! Finally, a Polvo song that was straight-ahead ass-kicking rock music! Not only that, but it was also smart and exceedingly well-arranged rock music, exciting my ear senses with the (1) exotic tap-and-bend guitar lick and dramatic drum build-up of the intro; (2) solo below-the-peg pluck-introduction of the main riff; (3) full-on band attack, highlighted by a second guitar whipping out two descending chords in opposition to the main riff's pissed-off three-chord garage rock; (4) evocative lyrics and vocal delivery of the verse ("I'll decipher it, I know that I can - at least I hope it's not beyond me now.... I TRYYYYYY to keep the conversation alive!"); (5) worried mood and dual vocal approach of the chorus; (6) killer rise-and-fall chord sequence following the chorus; (7) 2-6 again; and (8) single ringing above-the-neck strum and unsettled distorted bass thumps of the fade-out. I heard it, I loved it, I needed it recorded, it was recorded, I illegally taped it, I listened to it often, I eventually lost the tape, a guy sent me an MP3 copy 12 years later, and I LOVED IT AGAIN!!!!

Did I ever tell you I tried out to be the guitarist in "Pipe" once? Oh, the things we do for youth.

Say, you're young. Do college towns still have 'scenesters' and people who complain about 'scenesters'? If memory serves, I was both! I was also self-centered, elitist, immature, judgmental, pimply, boring and hateful. Do college towns still have people like that?

In conclusion, the songs deserve a 9, but the mix is so rotten I can't possibly go higher than an 8. Who mixed this thing anyway? Some guy with peanut butter in his ears!?

Ha ha! "Peanut butter in his ears"! The joke there is that peanut butter comes from "ears" of corn. But that's why they call me 'the funny one'!!!!

No hang on, it's 'the runny one.' (Gonorrhea.)

Add your thoughts?

Cor-Crane Secret - Merge 1992.
Rating = 9

Weird record. Almost unlistenable in its high-pitched tunelessness but just give it a chance - behind the ruckus is some really well-thought-out original music. The main problem that I initially had with this record is that it always seemed like the band was playing the wrong thing; either the two guitar lines would totally clash or the chord sequence as a whole would just seem unnatural and ugly to my ear. And, worst of all, aside from the Eastern-tinged "Vibracobra," it seemed like all the songs were made up on the spot - and NOTHING pisses me off more than improvisation in rock and roll music! Who the fuck do them jazz assholes think they're tryin' to kid?

But then what happened? I saw them live at La Terraza about two weeks after the album came out, and my jaw dropped to the floor. Those bastards recreated, note for note, the studio madness of "Kalgon," "Bend Or Break," "Duped" (complete with strategically placed feedback blasts), and a few others - to a degree so intense that Ash found himself bleeding real blood all over his normally non-blood-soaked guitar. Oh golly, I hate to seem like one of those prissies who calls music a "religious experience," but I swear I felt something holy for a good 45 minutes in that smoky little club in Chapel Hill.

Of course, after that show, I was hooked. I went back and listened more closely to the album and was thrown across my tiny dorm room by how creative the tracks were. Directionless? No. Not at all. There's all kinds of repetition in there. Who needs that cliche'd "verse-chorus-guitar solo" structure anyway? I'll tell you who. The Smashing Pumpkins, and their hits.

If you're not adverse to putting thought into your listeninging, this album will floor you. What a tremendous band. So soon after their indie rock debut, they were able to come up with a full-length LP of challenging and brilliant new guitar rock. The new Trouser Press Record Guide calls them "prog rock for the '90s" and says that their songs don't go anywhere. I agree that this music has more in common with Yes and ELP than with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but it doesn't bore me at all. Nothing's more exciting to me than music with new ideas. Polvo offers that. Most bands don't. At least give them credit for that, even if their ditties make you fidget.

And let me say something else here, for the record - I feel honored to have dwelt in Chapel Hill for four and a half years because I know that I lived in the same town as not just one of the best bands in the Triangle area, but one of the best bands in the world.

Reader Comments

jenks@baldcom.net (Tyler Jenks)
Very few bands these days seem to be truly innovative. Polvo is in a category all of it's own. After a short period of time, I grew to realize how incredibly dynamic this album was. Polvo is most definitely #1!

I've listened to all the albums repeatedly (except for the kitchen ep) and in my unprofessional opinion, this album is polvo's absolute best, rivaled only by this eclipse, which if were full length, would all the better. exploded drawing has bright spots, but lacks the formality and coherent (as coherent as they can get) push that cor-crane does. shapes, well, i don't want to piss anyone off, so i'll keep my mouth shut. that's just my opinion, but i think it's pretty justified.

willemvon@earthlink.net (Will Quackenbush)
"Channel Changer" could possibly have been one of the 10 best songs of '92. What a lament on growing up. "A sucker for asking is proud enough to know." Just go ahead and tear my heart out, and put yr cig out in it. Quite possibly the best (only?) use of glockenspiel since "Born to Run," beside Superchunk's cover of Sebadoh's "It's So Hard to Fall in Love." Everything after that is wonderful gravy.


serfasfgd@hotmail.com (Dan)
It appears to me this little "critic" has no idea of the articulation and dimension this record has to offer. Core Crane Secret is the Core of Polvo's sound and if you cant appreciate it than maby you don't really know what they're all about. I feel like cutting out this fucker's eardrums so that he can know the true meaning of "unlistenable" and "tuneless".

Polvo will always be my favorite band and Core Crane Secret is definatly my favorite...Makes me melt like jelly in the sunshine....I fade the lyrics out listening only to the music. Been some of my happiest times...I have yet to meet a girl besides myself whos even heard polvo. What a shame.

Polvo's CDs are mighty hard to get hold of unless you resort to the internet. I recieved the first 2 today and I have already run through both of them 3 or 4 times each (I've been bored alright!). There is no denying there idiosyncrasy but they are certainly not the most listenable records ever. The instrumental noodlings and intensity and mess of the guitar tone seem to be getting on top of me in these first few listens, which is excrutiating because underneath the annoying noise there are a few fantastic ideas and melodies. I'm hoping they will grow on me and I will keep listening because I don't just dismiss albums that quickly because I've got an open mind (smug look on my face). On this one the best are probably tracks 2,3, the beginning and end of 5, and 8. I can't quite get into the rest. I might report back if a sudden transition takes place and these become my favourite albums of all time suddenly, but at the moment they both get a healthy 7 so as not to offend the band too much and have them smashing into my house (I won't tell them my address as well to make sure)!

Hey cheer up, they might grow on me!

(one week later)

Hey, I'm back and I want to apologise for my last completely asinine mail to this page. Cor Crane and Today's have both grown on me, and they are both great records worth listening to once they become familiar and you can hear beyond the mess.

I prefer Today's Active Lifestyle to this one, but Vibracobra is the best Polvo song I've heard. This is a great record actually. Full of interesting musicology that can't be heard anywhere else and that loose improvised feel giving it a raw edge. Channel Changer is awesome, as is track 9 which I forget the name of but it goes on about the ceiling being right above his head in the hallway ( just the same as always). Duped is awesome too. The rest is pretty much all good so get this record. I give it a solid 8 imaginable but it's too good to be an 8.

Er, I can't be bothered to send a separate email for Today's so I'll outline that. It's good. Gets a very high 8 from me.

t_trudeau@tru.ca (Travis)
You know what's a great album?

"Cor-crane secret" by Polvo, that's what! My brother gave me a copy a few weeks ago, and I can't get enough of it. So fuzzy! So beautiful! What about that high-pitched feedbacky-snap thing in "Duped?" That's awesome! I just can't think of anyone else to tell about it. 'Today's Modern Lifestyles', as cool as it is, kinda sounds like a dumbed-down 'Cor-Crane Secret' to me now.

Oooh, I've grown to love all your albums, too, Mr. Prindle! Especially Chicago XX. That is honestly one of my favorite albums in the world. So much smartness-disguised-as-zaniness! Except "Drinking Solves Problems." That song is awful. I mention it only so it doesn't seem like I'm kissing ass.

Keep on rockin'!

Add your thoughts?

El Cid 7" (with Erectus Monotone) - Merge 1992
Rating = 8

Erectus Monotone was one of my favorite local bands when I colleged in Chapel Hill, NC, and if there's any justice in this world, I'll review them some day. Until then, we have this split-single with Polvo that I forgot I owned until about a week ago when I found a copy on an old cassette -- along with three other singles I forgot I owned ("The Freewheelin' Mark Arm," The first Monkeywrench 7" and that Ian McKaye/Jeff Nelson "Egg Hunt" thing). This one's pretty inconsequential, but still a fun listen if you happen across it cheap enough.

The three tracks include (a) Erectus Monotone's terrific moody "Fragment" from their debut CD Erector Set (if you love this song, be warned! It's the only song on Erector Set that isn't a weird wiry herky-jerk semi-punkish trebly electrical slapass shorty), (b) an early, weaker version of Polvo's "In The Hand In The Sieve" that's not as tight as the LP version and makes the mistake of returning unnecessarily to the opening riff at the end instead of cutting it off where they SHOULD have, which is where they DID on the LP version, so IT'S NOT THAT BIG A DEAL, and (c) a Merging Of The Minds track by short-lived supergroup "Erectus Polvotone." This is the real appeal of the record, a monstrosity of fuzzy synth notes, megaphoned vocals, two crunchy up-down chords and the bass line from Sonic Youth's "Death Valley '69." In fact, if you think of it as a rewrite of "Death Valley '69," you'll probably like it even more, because it doesn't have Lydia Lunch on it. Think of all the fine albums that would exist today if they didn't have Lydia Lunch on them. It truly makes the mind wiglgl.

Well, that was certainly an interesting typo. DT's are awesome.

Well, they ARE! What, you don't like Dirty Tits?

Say... I think I just figured out what AC/DC's "D.T." is about! Shame it's an instrumental. With the combined songwriting talents of the Young brothers and Brian Johnson, we could have had a masterpiece like this:

(Lyrics theoretically by Young, Young, Johnson)

Well, I see her dancin' on the ballroom floor
I take her home, I wanna see some more! (heh heh)
She shakes and shimmies all through the night
Then she gets to lovin' and it gives me a fright!

She's got --- D.T.s!
Shakin' left and right!
All through the night!

Well, this dirty woman's got me COMIN' on strong! (heh heh)
She says, 'I'm starting to hallucinate, it's been so long!'
Then she starts a-tremblin' with her treasure chest (heh heh)
When it comes to filthy lovin', she's the best!

She's got --- D.T.s!
Shakin' left and right!
All through the night!

(guitar solo)

Upon my 'withdrawal,' she has 'seizures'! (heh heh)

(guitar solo)

Well, I was at the bar hangin' with the boys
She starts a-quiverin' with her mud-covered joys (heh heh)
Her mountain peaks were rich with clay (heh heh)
She shakes so much, dirt flies every which way! (heh heh)

Wet sticky soft earth sex!
She's got --- D.T.s!
Benzodiazepine-GABAa-chloride receptor complex!
The D.T.s!
She's having fatal rum fits!
And someone soiled her tits!
The D.T.'s!

Get out those mud flaps, baby! (heh heh)

And take a drink from my skin beer bottle! (heh heh)

Add your thoughts?

Tilebreaker 7" - Merge 1993
Rating = 7

Remember Polvo? And his dog that drooled all over the place? As a forerunner of album number B, this single was hardly a humdinger of a harbinger. The title track is a straightforward Sonic Youth-style indie guitar rock song -- an inoffensive diversion from the difficult mathematical non-catchiness of Jennifer Corcoran's Secret, but hardly the most compelling or worthwhile expression of the band's considerable intelligence. Luckily, it would soon prove to be the only semi-weak track on the brilliant sophomore LP.

The main reason you might want to consider purchasing the thing if you see it cheap is one of the non-album B-sides -- "Tiara Fetish" -- which is as twisted, warped, upside-down, bent, noisy, distorted and completely WRONG as any song they would ever do (so off-the-wall, in fact, that they didn't even bother trying to put lyrics to it!). The third track, "The Chameleon," however, is a waste. Unlike the fine Creedence Clearwater Revival track "Chameleon," Polvo's ode to nature's most chameleonic creature is a slow, sloppy, drunken mess of a banjo-sounding slob's hangover song. Vocals there are, but who knows what they're saying? They're outside in the garage.

You can't find them? Check behind my license plate collection.

Still nothing? Have you looked in that box that says "Truck Bomb Materials" on it? They might be under the fertilizer.

Add your thoughts?

* Today's Active Lifestyles - Merge 1993. *
Rating = 10

The coolest. The tempo-halting harmonic "gleeng gloong!"s in "Thermal Treasure," the queasy axe meanderings of a solo Mr. Ash in "My Kimono," the harmonic-laden rat-a-tat-a-tat chorus in "Sure Shot," the pick-tapping-string solos in "Stinger (Five Wigs)," the high-energy guitar swoops and clachunkas in "Action Vs. Vibe" (action wins by a longshot), the smash-em-up count-to-fives that close "Gemini Cusp" - crud, dude - these fellows had their thinking caps on. To rock so handily, yet screw around with the accepted usages of normal pop instruments and structure to such a degree: them Polvos, they's some thinking fellers!

Sonic in their youth, too!

Bad company? Polvo refuses to repeat itself, trying new styles and methods of play with each release. This one's my favorite because I feel like they offer up a slightly larger number of brilliant ideas in these ten songs than they do on any of their other records. Among the songs I haven't already mentioned, "Tilebreaker" is straight-ahead indie rock like on the debut EP, "Time Isn't On My Side" is a herky-jerky keyboard-driven toe-tapper, "Shiska" is short and punky like Glenn Danzig before the accident, and "Lazy Comet" goes from stupid kiddie singalong to unsteady lightweight destructo-change-o in less time than it takes for me to turn the volume up really really loud whenever that genius Sheryl Crow song "If It Makes You Happy" comes on the air - aww now you're speaking my language in the upstairs room. I love this album, this band, and my girlfriend, and I suggest you do the same.

Except for my girlfriend. Asshole.

Reader Comments

healyj@iinet.net.au (James Healy)
I totally agree with you when you say today's active lifestyles is polvo's best album. i like your comment "a band so great, it's only appropriate that nobody has ever heard of them" GREAT comment

dstraub@geosys.com (David Straub)
On a whim, I decided to get Today's Active Lifestyles for cheap through cdnow.

I don't know what to think! Prog-punk? This is weird stuff, man. It took me a little while to develop a taste for Nomeansno, too, so I figure I'll get into it. I do like "Thermal Treasure" and "Stinger (five wigs)" quite a bit, and "My Kimono" is a really pretty little dejected instrumental that makes me think of rainy autumn days (which isn't exactly what I want here on the cusp of spring, but I'll allow it). A parallel I'm getting is with the "daffneys", i.e. Eric's weirdness on Smash your Head and Bubble. The vocals are especially reminiscent.

bhc2@lehigh.edu (Bradley Cawn)
If consistency is the key in making a great rock album, TAL is the one Polvo album that actually maintains it. I don't think their best songs are on here, but it is their most cohesive album and one of the best indie rock albums of the decade.

pmhart@ptbo.igs.net (Matt Hart)
Insanity. This album is hands down the most incredible piece of Polvo ever. I wish Exploded drawing was just a double album of this style. "Gemini cusp" makes me want to wet my pants and throw up!( in a good way). Polvo is the kind of band that you either like or don't understand.

drazy@gatecity.com (Todd and Kerry Wise)
Christ, what an album! The first Polvo release that I bought and became a fan of. It's the kind of album that is interesting enough to make you want to listen to it again and again. And when you do, you find something different. Casey Kasem won't have to worry about fucking up the band's pronunciation on "America's Top 40" though; this album requires a strange degree of openess. In other words, if you bought the last Hootie and the Blowfish album, you ain't gonna like this one. If your catalog contains some Sonic Youth\Chapel Hill-area bands/Spacemen Three, jump in, the water's fine. A tremendous effort and one that will be referred to again and again.

krcl@enter.net (Phil)
I picked up TAL on a whim some 5 or 6 years ago at a record store. I thought I vaguely recognized their name from somewhere, possibly an old Touch & Go catalog, and it was cheap enough, so I bit. I probably missed some of the best parts of this record the first time through as I was preoccupied with staring at my turntable in complete disbelief. I had been playing guitar for a few years at that point, and had already been introduced to Sonic Youth's left-field approach to the instrument, but their sound always did feel attainable, even as far-out as is/was. Honest to God, I almost quit playing guitar all together by the time I got halfway through "My Kimono." "What the hell are they *doing*?" or "Good Lord, this guy's E string must be tuned down to A#!" passed through my mind repeatedly. I'd have to say this is the record that completely opened my eyes and ears up to some of the more discerning and delightfully challenging bands in the whole indie strata, allowing me to discard the scores of die-cut and utterly forgettable Sub Pop bands festering on my stereo at that time. It's great to see that this band is appreciated by thousands of other people as well for whom quality music is undoubtedly very important. For about a year after buying TAL and all the other Polvo I could get my grubby little hands on, I honestly thought I was one of about six people in the world who listened to--much less worshipped--this band.

When I got this (5 years after its release, and about 5 years after I bought Pearl Jam's Vs., one of the worst pieces of butt i ever heard!) I realized that not only was there much more to music than power chord riffing, there was also a lot more than the sub-Pavement/Pixies stylings I'd gotten used to hearing in the supposedly credible indie rock world. Which is not to say I don't still enjoy some of the Archers of Loaf and Built to Spill records. It's just that Polvo's sound stands out considerably....As far as the album goes, instead of reiterating the cliched "Polvo manage to be technical while retaining feeling", let's just say that Polvo are (or seem to be) extremely adept at making entirely new and unheard of sounds come out of their instruments. We don't have to cover up the fact that it is somewhat technical and maybe a little prog-y. Call it "math rock" (???), experimental, prog-punk, or even noise; Polvo rewrote the vocabulary of music (my own cliche). And the fact that no one has yet learned to speak that language proves how great they were.

Rating: 9 (my only gripe is, in my opinion, the far too understated vocals, which would emerge triumphantly on Exploded Drawing)

desena@bellsouth.net (Russell De Sena)
The original cover had these tiger heads in the middle of all that yellow. Art was cut out of some goofy religious pamphlet by a friend and now bandmate of mine, the then Erectus Monotone guitarist Andy Freeburn. I think someone got sued as the thing got reished sans tigers. Why is there no E Mono site, best band on Merge ever. Why is their best stuff out of print? Guess they didn't shift as many units. I'll let y'all know when I talk Andy and Kevin into getting that compilation cd that they've talked about out. If you can find Erector Set ep (actually on Rave) you're in for a treat.

if you haven't gone to the beach and dug the unholy power of this art sometime in your life - you're missing something...it's never too late. thanks polvo!

I was interested in your Polvo site. I bought Today's Active Lifestyles from an independant record shop in Leicester (UK) when it first came out in 1993. Their records were being played on Radio One at the time by John Peel, and after i heard Gemini Cusp i knew i had to get it. I have the vinyl version - yellow sleave with Lions and some strange pictures on the back - it is one of my most treasure records.

Amazing album!!!! It's worthy of a 10, but i can't really say it's my favorite, cause I haven't heard their other albums. I'm suprised I haven't heard of these guys before I noticed them on your site, because I live in Chapel Hill...and this band is amazing, why doesn't more people talk about them??? hmm i dunno. great stuff. The whole album amazes me. Every song is a winner.

bubbastubba@yahoo.com (Chris)
I've been trying for (years, actually) to find the real lyrics to "Time Isn't On My Side" so here I will give you what I think they are, you tell me:

Time Isn't On My Side (Guess)

Time isn't on my side
and you know dang well
and that's the only thing in this life that's truth
I can tell you what's wrong with this picture
taken from the angle where I sell myself but
waiting for the dusty shelf
to get knocked down
practicing my mind's inner plastic shell
and no ballroom time!
to celebrate an aspiration past its prime
stretching up and down we'll climb
someone broke the downward pline

Time isn't on my side
and you know dang well
and that's the only thing in this life that's true
and now give it a rest
nothing that I sing will I say it best
showing that you feel much less
it's the fortune of the timely rest

I know that last line isn't correct for shure.


Add your thoughts?

Celebrate The New Dark Age EP - Merge 1994.
Rating = 9

More genus! The two most outstanding tracks to be found here are "Fractured (Like Chandeliers)," which gives us one of the most twisted guitar lines ever written (and I mean twisted - the whole darn riff is based on whammy bar jerkings!) and "Every Holy Shroud," which presents a chord sequence that would be just plain dopey if not for the fact that one of the guitarists refuses to follow the changes, rendering the first half of each line completely out of key - in a good way! Elsewhere, the band gives a go at a few "adult" moods, just to see if they can pull it off. And it they do pull off! "Virtual Cold" is melancholy and sweet, "City Spirit" is dominated by a warbly chorused bass line, "Tragic Carpet Ride" is straight hard rock (and it kicks!), "Solitary Set" sounds like the beginning of "Band On The Run" played over and over for three minutes, and "Old Lystra" sounds like a band trying to sound like Polvo. You'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't not unbuy this.
Reader Comments

I love this EP, of course it's not the greatest thing they ever did, but then again I can't rate any polvo album as being the best....anyhoo i personally become frightened when i see all these multitudes of bands coming out that are doing the same thing as other bands, but polvo is one of the few bands that i can honestly say is doing something "new" and continues to do something new. i have tried comparing their sound to other bands but it's impossible. it's also impossible to get people to like them, which is so hard for me to understand because once you allow polvo to enter your being, there's no getting it out. I remember buying cor-crane secret and HATING it, kicking myself for it. but 2 days after i bought it i put it in and i remember the song "can i ride" catching my attention........it was at this magical moment when all the dissonance and chaos that is the foundation of polvo's music sifted out, and what was left was the beautifulness and innovativeness......i will admit that "can i ride" is an accessible song but once i accepted it i began to listen to the others and everything fell into place.....i urge everyone to do the same.....if you demand more from your music than most bands offer than buy a polvo record today!

Recidivst3@aol.com (Jeremy)
Polvo is in fact probably one of the best bands in existence today...it is fully appropriate that no one has heard of them cause the masses like suck ass pop songs that dont strain a single synapse in their brains.....sometimes i think polvo is god....today's active lifestyles is incredible..... and "every holy shroud" on celebrate the new dark age is incredible..listen to those lyrics...they're infuckingcredble...dripping with sarcasm (soaked)..i thought pavement had wit...jeez....they're just plain awesome...no one else sounds like em, (although now i know where archers of loaf got that jangly guitar sound, another great band especially icky mettle, i don't get this new album though.(airports) anyways..thats off the subject and ive used far too much space)

eknudse2@mustang.uwo.ca (speedo)
I think I might be the only Polvo fan in the universe who thinks that Celebrate is their best release. "Fractured" in particular, is in my opinion, one of the best guitar songs ever written, for its combo of oddity, accessability, and emotionality (not to mention that although sloppy at times, these guys know their instruments). Although Celeb is not their most innovative album, it's their most emotionally biting (see "Tragic CR", "Virtual Cold"). I'm not the greatest music critic, but I realize when a CD has been the only one in my player for months.

desena@bellsouth.net (Russell De Sena)
Hey, this is practically my favorite too. It's quite tuneful, so all the artsy kids must be scared of this as some "pop" move, and maybe it is, and so what. I got the triple single and really like the confusing packaging, you need an engineering degree to open it up and then put it back together when you're done spinning it. Best time I saw 'em live was at the Fallout Shelter at this time. Took place during an ice storm, so maybe 15 people there. I've seen em be sloppy and not quite tie it all together, but this night they hit all the right buttons. Sorry if any of y'all missed em live, you should of been there. Heard rumors of possible future sessions, by the way, but don't expect any more live work.

Yeah, I'd have to say this is my personal favorite Polvo. It was the first one I heard out of all of them, and then I saw Polvo open up for Sonic Youth in New Orleans back in '95, and they got the crowd going long before the Youth took the stage. Then I went home and listened to this record over and over later on, and it was incredible. Immediately hooked. The most diverse sound out there, and the tempos-- whoa, silver! They take 'em away. The final show I saw them in Baton Rouge at The Bayou and they played Spanish Castle Magic. Jesus. Then A Quick One While He's Away medley, and then slammed into their own material. It was a hell of a night, a hell of a definitive ride for this band. I sorely miss them.

BConklin1@nc.rr.com (Brenda Love)
Ash Bowie's scream in the middle of "Fractured" is a classic moment in music history. That's the kind of scream you're dying to let out occasionally but are worried you might get committed if you do.

Wes Paxton
Jesus Christ this is good. So why did it take me 664,000 listens for me to like it? "Fractured" is about the best song ever written even though the opening riff makes it sound like it's going to be another generic piece of indie rock bullshit... "Every Holy Shroud" rapes the fuck out of every sonic youth song i've ever heard too.

Hey Prindle, where's the Libraness review? I thought you were a big Polvo fan.

Add your thoughts?

This Eclipse EP - Merge 1995.
Rating = 9

About six months before this record came out, Polvo played a rare concert at the Cats Cradle (they'd not played around town in quite some time), and all of my friends and I agreed - it sucked ass. The new songs were simple hard rock songs and the band had a cocky kickass rocker attitude the likes of which we'd never associated with this previously shy lowkey combo. So we said, "Skrew you, Pavlov!!! Giving up art to try to score a major label deal!!!" Then six months later this EP came out and made us all feel stupid. The day that this stop-and-start pothead music nabs a band a DGC contract is the day I grow a mustache.

Just as defiantly anti-commercial and pro-intelligent as before, these five songs offer up some classic guitar interactivity in an indie rock context ("Bat Radar"), a little loping catchy as hell singalong ("Bombs That Fall From Her Eyes"), an iota of that weird melody deconstruction gig that made the debut LP such a freakish treat to plow through ("Titan Up"), the slightest measurable knot of bass-drone psychedelia ("Production Values"), and a whopping asspipeful of that off-kilter songwriting style that makes the band so darned special ("Titletrack" and all previously listed numbers).

Boy oh boy, did I feel like a dick having said the things I'd said after their disappointing concert of six months prior. But you have to understand - I was still a young man, and it was a HUGE threat to think of a great young band compromising their sound to make the dough. And that's seriously what it sounded like they were trying to do - perhaps they were just being ironic, and I, in those early pre-Morrisette years, just wasn't sufficiently sophisticated to catch on to their biting ruse. Either way, I was wrong and this EP is brilliant. A little mellower than usual, too, which was an interesting and unexpected change. Too friggin' short, of course, but the next record remedied that problem in a heart flutter.

Reader Comments

Shiska5050@aol.com (Jessica)
I too saw Polvo around the time of This Eclipse (along with TFUL!) and I, along with the people I was with, thought it was the worst show we had ever seen. It was boring, and they played 3, maybe 4 songs stretched out into 10 minutes or so each. Only one song was totally decipherable. It was more like a 40 minute medley waste of time than any Polvo show I would ever expect. But they've totally redeemed themselves since then. Rock on.

lambo@ili.net (Kevin C. Lambrix)
This Eclipse is not the best thing I ever heard, but it contains the best and my favorite polvo song, "titletrack". It's brilliant, complex and melodic. The last time I saw Ash he said it was his favorite he ever wrote.

This is the best album ever made. It is aesthetically brilliant and perfectly poignant. It changed my life and if I ever meet a girl who feels the same I will marry her

Add your thoughts?

Exploded Drawing - Touch And Go 1996.
Rating = 8

More welcoming and normal-sounding, thanks to their fullest production yet, but still full of cool ideas and beautiful executions, especially in the lovely "Fast Canoe," "In This Life," and "Taste Of Your Mind." Some of it rocks like Nugent ("Bridesmaid Blues"), some lopes and careens like a kangaroo with one busted leg ("Feather Of Forgiveness," "Crumbling Down," "Snowstorm In Iowa"), and several pretty much just sound like Polvo, which is nothing to toss a fuckin' shitter at. Not every single song is up to their usual standards (hence the 8), but the thing's so darned long, you hardly even notice the few weak spots. And the ending? "When Will You Die For The Last Time In My Dreams," aside from bearing one of the most bizarrely romantic/frightening titles ever, can brag to its friends about its status as the longest Polvo tune ever, ending with about ten minutes of fuzzy chimey noise with a beat. It's cool!

Good record. Lots of classic noise, plus a few numbers that manage pure sonic beauty without becoming hackneyed little wussy tunes. Buy it and enjoy the length. The songs are a lot easier to follow than before, but there's no idiot pop on here. Who knows if they're even capable of idiot pop? I saw 'em totally screw up a cover of "Fly Like An Eagle" once, and we all know how difficult that feat must have been.

Reader Comments

JPekkarine@aol.com (Jonathan)
What you said!!!! Couldn't have said it better. You know about the Pumpkins and all that shit. I myself was a HUGE pumpkins fan, (Gish Especially) but recently they just don't do it. I 'm looking for more. And what I found was Polvo. They make my ears hurt and I love it, and they also have written some of the most beautiful pieces of songs I have ever heard in my life. The chorus, I guess you'd call it, in "crumbling down" is sooooo beautiful. What makes it so, is that the song arrives there through heavy distorted wallowing guitars then bursts into bliss. Um. I am a recent Polvo fan soes I don't know nuthin bout em, sept for the few articles I have just read. This one was very amusing and educational. I only own This Eclipse and Exploded Drawing, but if I know me, I will own more soon. I love bands like Polvo, they make me wish I was a genius guitar guru (like Frank Zappa). Too bad, these types of bands get hardly any recognition they deserve. Society just seems to glorify the drab pop music that is uneventful and is deemed pleasing to the ear and blah blah blha blah blah. Smashing Pumpkins and so on. Unfortunately, Jawbox broke up, cause they were magnificent, and I thought they were gonna take over the world. Maybe Shudder to Think can pick up the slack. Maybe all the other Polvo type bands out there (not to say they sound like polvo but just do stuff that's cool) could rise up together and take over the world, and we would forever be submerged in chaotic sounds of pure.....wonderment.

sunocar@btigate.com (Carson Hoovestol)
The first time I listened to Exploded Drawing was on an airplane and the music matched the turbulence. I listened to the whole thing and realized this was what rock music was all about. My first Polvo record was Celebrate The New Dark Age. From there I got (in order) Exploded Drawing, Cor-Crane Secret, Polvo, today's active lifestyles, and This Eclipse. I love Polvo and consider them the greatest band currently in existence. None of my friends can stand them, but the more I listen to Polvo, the less I can listen to anything else. I truly envy you for seeing them 16 times. That must've been phenomenal, to put it lightly.

exploded drawing is digestable pure polvo, they have proved they are perfect at times, and have filled the quota of pop songs, and retained a sense of originality. it's not their best album though.

x644@yahoo.com (Scott Cornish)
the beatles had the white album. polvo has exploded drawing. i can not find a better example of the magic that polvo can create. this is just about the best cd i can ever remember hearing and i wouldnt trade it for anything in the world. this record not only changed me, but it defined who I am today. every song has a special place in my heart. "will you die for the last time in my dreams?" is far more an epic than sonic youth's "diamond sea" or "stairway to heaven" and leaves you with a feeling of total and utter amazement. polvo is not my favorite band, but this is my favorite record.

This is the one. There's more pop on here, but as Prindle explained, no IDIOT pop and that's for daaamn sho'. "Fast Canoe", "Bridesmaid Blues", "Feather of Forgiveness" are some of the most challenging "pop" tunes since Surfer Rosa, and probably more so. And of course, the noises are still so cool, with that first guitar line being my personal favorite album opener ever. I can't really say enough about this one, and even though it may not be AS innovative and challenging as Today's, Exploded Drawing gets my 10.

It was Polvo that first introduced me to the world of Mark Prindle. Finally, a dude that understood how fucking great this band was. Now I see that Mark has gone and changed his original rating from a nine (deserved) to an eight (too low). What's next, nude posters of his wife?

Add your thoughts?

Shapes - Touch And Go 1997.
Rating = 7

I can only assume that somebody complained that "all their records sound the same" or something, because this album features way too many misguided attempts to alter the band's sound, with the result being that Polvo now sounds a lot like all those other unnecessary and lesser-talented indie rock bands that college kids like for some reason.

UPDATE: I had actually left Chapel Hill for NYC in early '96 and thus didn't know of the drama surrounding this release. Apparently by the time they got around to recording it, Eddie had quit, Dave had moved to NY and Ash had moved to Boston. So there had likely been no practice, no rehearsals, no jam sessions, no nothin'. How groundbreaking was the album going to be? Now back to the UN-UPDATE.

My major complaint here is that the band, in its determination to attack new and varied forms of musical instrumentation (I could be wrong, but I think I hear sitars, banjos, pianos, keyboards, and trumpets in there), have neglected to bother writing any really great melodies. Just because you throw a simplistic sitar line into a song doesn't make the song "interesting." In this case, it totally drags Polvo away from their real strength - guitar interplay. Three songs - the beautiful "Twenty White Tents," stirring and somber "Enemy Insects," and lengthy, drawn-out "El Rocio" - all sound like the Polvo we've grown to love. The rest of the record is an unsuccessful experiment in genericism. Polvo don't ROCK (their guitar tones are far too tinny to pull it off), and I personally wish they'd stop trying to do so. Now, I realize that as a fan, I'm in no position to instruct the band on how best to maximize their collective strengths - I mean, if a band wants to progress, they should progress - I'm just putting forth a suggestion that they spend a little more time on melody development the next time around. Most of these songs sound like they were made up in ten minutes (and maybe they were?). Polvo are far more talented and smart than this record shows them to be.

Having bitched enough, I want to conclude by making it clear that, regardless of my earlier complaints, Shapes is a good indie rock record. If you buy it, you'll probably like it. It's only a letdown to me because Polvo is one of the greatest bands in the world, and I know that they're capable of so much more than this. "Rock Post Rock" has some really great Zeppeliny guitar bits, though, and Stacy "Spott" Philpott's horn solos in "Downtown Dedication" totally steal the show. Go, Stacy "Spott", go!

Reader Comments

sunocar@btigate.com (Carson Hoovestol)
At first, Shapes totally took me by surprise. But it grew on me. I've come to enjoy "Enemy Insects", "Twenty White Tents", "Everything In Flames", "Downtown Dedication", "El Rocio", and "lantern" dearly. Also, if anyone didn't catch it, there's an intersting Hendrix nod- "d.d.s.r." = " downtown dedication : slight return" if I may be so bold. Shapes does at times sound like Polvo just screwing around trying to play other "genres" of music, but overall it's an interesting album, and a worthy piece of the Polvo library/puzzle.

I have seen a shitload of bands in my college days, and Polvo are one of the weirdest, most perfect of the bunch. From 1992-1995 it was a head to head battle between Polvo and Drive Like Jehu for the throne of noise-rock kings.

mwhite@whiterunkle.com (Mark White)
The melodies are there on Shapes; they're just harder to find. And that's what makes it their best album yet. The band isn't experimenting for the sake of experimentation here, they are bending and twisting the pop song structure even further then on previous efforts. I love Exploded Drawing and their earlier albums, but they didn't have the diversity and range of Shapes. Therefore, to me at least, they are less interesting. I say keep going with the sitar, trumpets, and whatever else they want to throw in there. The songwriting is still as strong. If not stronger.

pmhart@ptbo.igs.net (Patricia Hart)
I really like Shapes, and not because it sounds like a typical indie rock record, but because it is a nice change from exploded drawing. I thought Exploded had some ultra boring moments that were only made bearable by songs like "Fast Canoe" and "When Will You Die....". If the songs on shapes replaced these boring moments, Exploded would be a monster. Polvo has a great tendency to sound un-Polvo, like on Shapes, but if you give it another chance, it is mildly reminiscent of This Eclipse at times, which is great, but in a different way.

dunsmuir@netrover.com (Bruce Dunsmuir)
I too like Polvo too much for my own good...Today's Active Lifestyles is just barely my fave, for pretty much the same reason that it's yours (most consistent amount of incredible messings-around with guitar sounds and structures'n'timings)..."Title Track" is probably my favorite song of theirs...Lots of parts on Shapes are still bugging me, though...if they put those rock'n'roll solos, cheesy-ass grooves and whiny vox in there just to bug their geeky fans, it sure worked on this one...oh well...there are still parts to every song that no one else would think of adding to the mix, and I like the way that they kept up with the tinny, almost traditional-Jewish-string-instrument-whateverit'scalled instrumental interludes that they first came up with on Exploded Drawing..."El Rocio" is such a good song that it pretty much saves the whole album for me, though...oh well...

hey bluds, polvo is all over say yer prayers and count yer blessings. it weren't a great last album but what and the hell would you do?

I think the majority of you have missed the point. "Shapes" is one of the most innovative songs in this band's pop-tragedy sequence. "Everything in Flames" ranks with the best of Polvo's alternatively tuned anthems. When have you ever heard Polvo ask you to sing along -- "Everybody sing/everything in flames." I lament the band has to come to any sort of conclusion, but hey we have the reunion tour to look forward to, right?

damn, polvo rocks!!!

eknudse2@mustang.uwo.ca (speedo)
I've got only negative things to say about Shapes, and I refuse to sprinkle that negativity with any sort of statement like: "But it's still a good album 'cause it's Polvo." I don't know if it's a joke or not, but they seem to almost deliberately fall into the 2 ultimate trappings of wanker-musicianship 1) Experimenting with annoying instruments and 2) Paying tribute to classic rock. Ever notice how the bridge of "Everything In Flames" sounds like "The Locomotion"? Anyways, I lied. I will sprinkle and say that "Enemy Insects" is a wicked song.

I bought a Polvo Cd and I really didn't like it that much but then I listened to it again and it blew me away. Now I have all of them and I think they all are great I try to share this band with everyone I know. I saw them play there second to last show at the Cat's Cradle and it was the best and most exciting thing that I have ever seen or done. I know where you are comeing from when I read your page on them, they are truely the best band in the world.

drazy@gatecity.com (Todd and Kerry Wise)
I don't understand the "disappointment" people are expressing with Shapes. It's the record everyone knew (or should have known) they were going to make and I take serious issue with the comment that Polvo "can't rock..their guitar sound is too tinny." Please! One listen to "Rock Post Rock" dispells that notion; blatant Page riffs ripped directly from circa '72 Zep. Trust me, it passes the "rock" quiz. And going back awhile, "My Kimono" rocked as hard as Sab's "Embryo" from Masters Of Reality. Polvo seemed from the beginning to be a band that spent an awful amount of time fucking around in the basement with strange guitar tunings and a love for toying with newly aquired instruments ("Now we just bought a sitar...so be prepared"). Shapes is a wonderful and welcomed addition to the boy's catalog and, unfortunately, sounds like the final chapter judging from the amount of "stuff" they tried to cram into it. The disc is filled full of minute long jams/experiments/showing off/etc. The mix is tight and glossy, yet not in a bad Robert "Mutt" Lange way. By expanding his vision, Bob Weston has proven with this production that he is the best working independant producer out on the market today. He perfectly sidesteps the sounds of his previous efforts unlike Albini who merely sticks with one concept and milks the results over and over again (anyone outthere actually admit to owning the last Bush release?). And Weston works with Polvo with kid gloves: if they're uncertain about their voices, hell we'll just bury it or add some campy late '60's effects to it. "Downtown Dedication (Slight Return)" enters the repertoire as one of the "greatist hits" the band has ever produced. The album itself is, unfortunately, a good way to end the band. And in some ways it's a perfect vehicle for newcomers to get a glimpse of what the band was all about. A highly recommended effort.

I'm Cyril from Paris, France. I juste heard that Polvo has split up but I'm not surprised... I saw one of their show in Montreal when Exploded Drawings just came out. They played during 20 minutes, but Ash Bowie seemed very upset and he left the stage throwing down his guitar.

Then, one year later, when they released the Shapes LP, I was very disappointed : my favorite band had become some regular indie-rock band playing tribute to the ugly 70's mainstream rock (come on, isn't it Lenny Kravitz singing on the awful "Downtown dedication"?) I wish they split up after Exploded, leaving behind them wonderful records...

the only band I can compare polvo with, is Trumans Water...

The only polvo record in the collection. Confusing when I first heard it-I was like "what the hell is this crap?" But man -those songs sneak up on you! Youll get up early just to put it on. "Enemy Insects" sounds like a bizarre horror movie theme. The last song on there (i forget the name) has such a cool ass ending-damn! three cheers for polvo. Cant wait to get more polvo.

cool@interpath.com (Todd Allred)
SHAPES is an underrated last (?) effort by the most interesting band since CAN. "Lantern" "Downtown Dedication" and "Enemy Insects" just totally kick all ass!!!!

echodenver@hotmail.com (Fred Willard)
I love every aforementioned song on Shapes, but "El Rocio" (Spanish for DEW) is the sh#t. It clocks over 12 minutes, but it plays like a short story. And "Downtown Dedication - Slacker Revise" takes the cake.

Oh, I can't wait for their new release. Polvo are a talented band with a promising future.

i may be totally behind the times but i took a year off from listening to music in early 98 and missed this album completely until 3/99. upon first listen i was saddened and disappointed. it had all the earmarkings of "last album" and "thrown together" and while i may snooze through some of the tracks there are others that rule my world (and besides, good snooze music is pretty impressive, too). you have all confirmed my fears of a breakup. the king is dead. long live the king!

Ash Bowie basically canned Polvo because he’s more enthused with banging Mary Timony, and playing in her band Helium on a regular basis.

What a f--cking Homer!

Why don’t you just move to Hollywood already, You boring sellout.


mcmills@edisto.cofc.edu (Melissa C. Mills)
I've been listening to Polvo since the first album came out and I can honestly say that I was trully disappointed about them breaking up and even more disapointed about that being their last album. My new favorite band to go see is now Man or Astroman? oh well....the world isn't perfect but Coco sure can grow on you!

metronom@ascinet.com (eric Metronome)
i heard recently at CMJ in NYC that Polvo are currently working on a new album. i guess they arent going to tour anymore, but the word is that they have one more LP coming. i wonder if anyone will still be interested after Shapes? i guess i will. there is just no band like Polvo.

I was so glad to see a web site devoted to Polvo and a reviewer who cuts through the ''indie credibility'' and ''influence'' of the band and gets to the point: Polvo sends shivers up and down your spine as frequently as the notes bend.

Celebrate the New Dark Age is, to me, their masterpiece. ''I won't change my posture...''

desena@bellsouth.net (Russell De Sena)
If this record sounds different, I think maybe it's because half was done without a drummer, and the other half with a new drummer, my pal and Raleigh standby, notorious cartoonist and zine miester, etc., that's right the one and only Brian Walsby. I must confess to this being one of the few records from Polvo I've never heard. I'm sure it's fine, given the awe inspiring presence of Walsby! He's played with: Scared Straight, Wwax (with Mac you know who), Williard, Shiny Beast, Erectus Monotone (live work only and briefly), the original Shames, and now with the incredibly evil Daddy. O yeah, who could forget the mighty Bedside Pig, and I can't believe I forgot the Patty Duke Syndrome, in which Ryan Adams proved he had real talent before got that incredibly phony alt country "band" together.

Raincoats anyone?

ari@insound.com (Ari Sass)
ash bowie of polvo and helium has a solo record coming out soon on our label, Tiger Style, under the moniker "Libraness". The album is called Yesterday...and Tomorrow's Shells and will be released on October 17th...if you like Polvo you'll love this!

metronomic@excite.com (John Prete)
I became interested in Polvo after a few years of exhaustively listening to gbv. The deeper I dug to get gbv music the more amazing the songs were. Eventually the well went dry, and the lead singer took on diahrea of the mouth. I needed a new band. Bouncing between modest mouse, built to spill and polvo, finally Polvo won me over hands down with Shapes. I previously owned 3 cds before buying shapes. Shapes proved to be a dynamic album, leaking out both raw and clean sounds I had not yet heard from Polvo, these sounds weren't just good they were mood changers. Polvo transforms their sounds and still ends up with hard hitting music, something rare to hear. Polvo seems to hit so much variety and emotion in Shapes its hard to say its not genius, its like they collected all this musical stuff over the years and just let it explode into Shapes.

darrelld@globaleyes.net (Joel Dunham)
Man what are you all dissing this album for? It's so weird, it's weird for Polvo. Where else do you find transitions from quiet sitars to Led Zeppelin? (Rock post rock) Where else do you find loud electric guitar with the next chord being that of quiet piano? (Twenty White Tents) Where else do you find the groove of Downtown dedication and the Polvoesque instrumental bit on Enemy insects? The way these tracks enmesh is crazed enough. Don't you like sitars every now and then? Come on! It's Polvo! The only thing I can think of that this sounds remotely like (and I really don't include Polvo) is Neutral Milk Hotel. If you like this album, try out Neutral Milk Hotel.

AMoroski@msn.com (Andrew Moroski)
After playing all the Polvo albums and wading through the supposed, current "indie rock" scene, I wonder: Do any bands play noisy guitars anymore? I hope so!

adamburtrules@yahoo.com (Adam Burt)
I didn't know a thing about Polvo until right after they had broken up (when I was still living in a small town where practically NO ONE knows about indie/underground bands), so I can't exactly relate to the disappointment most fans claim to have felt when this came out. I think this a really great record, though. it has a very creepy/dark vibe throughout, especially evident on "Enemy Insects," "El Rocio," "Lantern," and "Twenty White Tents," which is probably my most favorite Polvo track, even though it's more of an Ash Bowie solo track. the classic-rock-sounding stuff definitely does seem a little weird for Polvo, but they do it well and it doesn't get irritating. good record, great band. wish I'd seen them.

you should know these guys are genui and they shouldn’t be questioned. the record is prolific to say the least I urge you to remember the line on celebrate the new dark age " we just bought a sitar so be prepared" they wanted to use it before they broke up, and a few sitar notes in a song does make it cool if its polvo, man. what about the iron maiden influence? was it lost on you? maybe they just ran out of ideas. I've often thought this record was inspired/done under the influence of acid or mushrooms

btundi@emailaccount.com (Brother Dave)
This one certainly caught me by surprise when I first heard it. Exploded Drawing was a bit of a let-down and so if you were hoping for "a return to form" then once the overly long Enemy Insects had completed you were probably sitting there stunned and wondering what the fuck was going on.

But a few listens later and this one really grew on me. Its trippier and more atmospheric than what they've done before and for some that mightn't be why you like Polvo. For me though its good. Indeed great! Not their best, but better than Exploded Drawing anyway.

Did I suggest I didn't like Enemy Insects?. Now when considered as part of this album it sets the mood .. and in some scattered way the whole thing comes together into a satisfying journey thru the world of Polvo. Its probably fair to say that the difficult circumstances the band were in did affect the way this album came about, some of it does sound thrown together, but serendipitously it works out. Sometimes the best journey crosses many paths.

dranfu@hotmail.com (Vitorrio Brooks)
I thought your site was very nice. Polvo is also one of my favorite bands and its nice to see a thorough site about their music. Your friend needs to chill out though.. He seemed Angry about the way you wrote your article.. Anyhow if you hear any new news about New Projects coming from the disbanded members add that to your page. Im counting on you for the heads up. Good job

For more Polvo-ish 'straight-ahead ass-kicking rock music', check out recently formed band Black Taj. Well, what do you know! It has 2-3 ex-Polvo members (Ash Bowie on the mixer at some point). And they play some sort of Southern Rock with Polvo fingerprints all over it. Call it 'ZZ Polvo'.

Oh, and it's THE most criminally ignored band of this decade, too...

Add your thoughts?

In Prism - Merge 2009
Rating = 8


But enough of my uproarious pain reliever gags. I'd better stop now before I 'Tylenol'! ('try them all')!

Hoppity hoppity hoppity! Happy Easter everyone! It's me -- the Easter Bunion, here with a basket full of colored bones from the base of the big toe. Hoppity ho

In Prism? More like In JISM, if you ask me!!!! (because it's so good you'll experience a crisis). Ten years after the disappointingly traditional Shapes, Polvo unexpectedly returns to life with a very strong collection of long, well-produced songs that combine their classic weird guitar tunings, odd chord structures and fascinating guitar interplay with a more mature (grown-up) feel and increased musicianship. Thank God it still sounds like Polvo -- particularly the structured songwriting approach of Exploded Drawing -- and is every bit as intelligent and unique as the output of their youth. A couple of songs have a bell too, so if you're a bell fan, be sure and check those out.

From the opening seconds of "Right The Relation," it's clear that Polvo is still Polvo. Listen to that second chord -- it's BENDY! Then wait until the verse comes around and presents yet another of Ash's patented 'why the hell did you write it like THAT!?' guitar riffs. The songs are a lot longer than they used to be -- averaging around six minutes each -- but Ash is still strangling a mixture of haunting mesmerism and ugly racket out of his guitar, and (as anybody who's heard Black Taj can attest) Dave is still writing laidback guitar grooves that combine classic rock riffing with droney Eastern modalism thingy.

I'll warn you this though: not that Polvo was ever an 'ass-kicking hardcore rock action band of kicking your ass,' but now that they're in their 40s, their music (like that of fellow guitar pickers Sonic Youth) is even less explosive than it used to be. As a fatigue-ridden 36-year-old, this mellow midtempo approach doesn't bother me in the least, but I wouldn't be surprised if young people with their "energy" and "whole lives ahead of them" are unable to connect with much besides the anxious, Minus The Bear-esque "Beggars Bowl." Having said that, even I question the decision to make the songs quite so lengthy, particularly the 8-minutes-plus "Lucia" and "A Link In The Chain." As these are among the moodiest and most evocative songs in the band's catalog (especially the gorgeous latter tune), it's unfortunate that by the end of each, you'll probably be daydreaming about gazing at your watch.

One final comment: with the grotesque sick-harmony twiddle-iddle verse of "The Pedlar," Ash Bowie has finally come up with a riff that sickens even me!

Okay, a better final comment: it always seemed unfortunate that Polvo ended their brief career with such a slapdash-sounding and (by their standards) weak record as Shapes. In Prism is a cohesive, mature and musically rich work that definitively lays to rest any notions that their initial breakup was necessary because 'they'd run out of ideas.' Here's hoping that the reunited Jesus Lizard will follow suit and wash the (relative) stink of Blue out of our ears and memories!

Reader Comments

I first heard this band about a month ago, after reading about them on this site, and i really like all their old stuff, especially cor-crane secret. This new one is a lot more classic rock influenced than i expected, but its a cool album, solid from start to finish. A Link in the Chain being my favourite song here.

To change the subject completely, looking at your 'henry the dog wearing an article of clothing photo', i felt like my heart was getting ripped out. My dog died two days ago and i used to take silly pictures like that of her. Don't take him for granted.

Adrian Denning
it's brilliant - pure, exciting, excellent, stunning.
i'm SO PLEASED they are back.

this is their best since, oooh, 1994?

in prism is probably the most conventional, normal-sounding rock record that polvo have done so far. but only in comparison with their own work. it's still plenty dissonant, complicated and strange by mainstream standards. my favorite polvo records will probably always be the ones released from 1993-1995 (today's active lifestyles, new dark age, this eclipse) because they show polvo at their most experimental & challenging. but i still like nearly every record they ever released. except shapes, naturally. even when polvo attempted to compromise or reconcile their experimental urges with a more conventional rock style, they still usually produced some pretty imaginative & engaging music that could put most other bands to shame. in prism easily qualifies as a successful return to form (as if shapes never happened) and it's at least as good as exploded drawing if not a little better on account of being shorter, more focused, less meandering and just plain more consistently well written & well played. in prism contains one song in particular ("lucia") which i think resembles the kind of brilliance that their 1993-1995 records were all soaked with, and the rest of the songs don't seem to fall very far short of it.

Nothing pleases me more than knowing Polvo is viable band once again, and I am certainly pleased by "In Prism". I think the comparison to Exploded Drawing is apt and while I appreciated Shapes as what was then the last album of the greatest experimental rock band since Sonic Youth, it was a very strange bookend. I blame Mary Timony *ahem*. I'm glad In Prism has reset their own bar, but I am, like you alluded to, disappointed that the high-speed, quasi-melodic Polvo from "Cor-Crane Secret" to "This Eclipse" is probably gone forever. I guess that's ok, because I can play "In Prism" around anybody and they will at least tolerate it--if not be intrigued--whereas "Fractured Like Chandeliers" was the beginning and end of many my friends' and family's introduction to Polvo. It's funny to watch them on YouTube these days playing the old standards--they remove most of the alternate tunings and even the tempo changes--ach! Compare http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6rvq0YRmpM&fmt=18 with http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-piuLK6rwo&fmt=18 , the contrast is amazing. I say get Steve Albini out of producing retirement, get him in the studio with Polvo for the next album and revisit the style and verve of "Today's Active Lifestyles" (minus DGC's meddling of course)!

Brad J
Honestly, I'm not particularly familiar with Polvo. Sure, I have copies of Today's Active Lifestyles and Exploded Drawing, but don't let that fool you: I've struggled half-assedly through the former one or two times (I'm such a wuss), and only listened to the first four songs off the latter once. So until I properly listen to more of their albums, I can't make any bold statements about In Prism being "their best album!" or see how it fits in their discography.

But taken by itself, I immensely enjoy In Prism. There's lots for me to like: it's big, epic, incredibly pretty and dreamy, and it sounds amazing, too. Maybe I'm just imagining things because of the title, but it seems like a very colourful album: there's all of these different, shimmering guitar tones throughout. Plus, unlike Today's Active Lifestyles (which hasn't "clicked" for me yet... but I expect it will), I was sucked into this album straight away: the first time I heard the phenomenal Beggar's Bowl, I was blown away. The song kicks ass and is exceedingly well written, with some very cool parts (like that weird whammy bar fiddling before the verses), and I love how the guitar solo just soars out of the noise.

Almost all the other songs are great, too. For the most part, they're all very well written and have lotsa interesting little parts and sounds. My one gripe though, is with D.C. Trails, which isn't overly exciting to begin with. However, it does become interesting as it progresses and changes, and the distorted guitars and huge guitar solo (which is pretty awesome) at the end are both unexpected surprises. It's also the only song, on album full of long songs, that I think is overlong. Sure, Lucia and A Link in the Chain may both be longer, but I totally adore them.

In my opinion, the two aforementioned epics are album highlights. I love how Lucia starts off as a very quiet, very sparse ballad, but after a blast of distorted chords, suddenly speeds up and turns into a melodic as all get out, almost power-pop song (but is still something of a ballad too). The percussion heavy breakdown is neat, and it's a nice touch that at the song's conclusion, it turns back into the original ballad and they drag out the ending for extra effect. On the other hand, A Link in the Chain is extremely pretty and a fitting album closer. The dramatic mid section where it builds from a whisper to roar is excellent, and I really like how it eventually resolves back into the chiming verse guitar line, and the little guitar solo that follows it. Really, they're both fantastic songs.

Anyway, enough rambling and describing songs. Since I can't pin-point the album's best song, I'll just call it a three way tie between Beggar's Bowl, Lucia and A Link in the Chain. (But gee... the rockin' Right the Relation and "see-sawing" City Birds are both excellent as well!). On the "Prindle-Meter", this album would probably rate about an 8. A particularly high 8, that could get quite easily bumped up to a 9. It's a great record, and I'm certainly glad I tracked down a copy.

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Heavy Detour 7" - Merge 2011
Rating = 5

I dislike the song "Heavy Detour" for the same reason that I try not to run around cow pastures with a boner: because I hate fuckin' bullshit. I don't know what the normally ingenious David Brylawski was thinking when he penned this corny '80s-synth-riddled song of seXXX and souLLL -- was he trying to sound like Prince? Or one of those soulful Urge Overkill songs? Or third-rate Afterburner-era ZZ Top? God knows. I mean, sure, I could ASK HIM. But what would that prove? He'd just beat the shit out of me like he did all the other musical critics (Rob Sheffield? TO A PULP. David Fricke? DEAD. Robert Christgau? NEVER HEARD OF HIM.). Yes, they don't call David Brylawski "Polvo's Axl Rose" for nothing! In fact, they don't call him that at all. I'm stalling, in hopes he'll forget that I just called his new song a vomitous piece of garbage and perhaps the least appealing track ever recorded by the band. Save this seXXXy linGGGerie-wearing seduXXXion music for Minus The Bear, thanks! (And then tell them to stop playing it too)

Thankfully, Ashington Bowie gives us what we crave and need with side two's "Anchoress," an emotional and gripping selection of memorable, desperate chord changes played in that inimitable slidey-finger diddle-diddle manner we grew up with in our childhoods. Thanketh be to you, Asheville "David" Bowie, NC!

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