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Polvo
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  • Todays Active Lifestyles,
  • Celebrate The New Dark Age,
  • In Prism,








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Polvo

    Todays Active Lifestyles 9 ( 1993 )
    Thermal Treasure / Lazy Comet / My Kimono / Sure Shot / Stinger (Five Wigs) / Tilebreaker / Shiska / Time Isn't on My Side / Action Vs. Vibe / Gemini Cusp

    Polvo, Polvo, polvo. So good, i've said their name three times already. But, before all of that, let me take you back. Back to the romantic times of the early Sixites. You could watch Mick Jagger and his Rolling Stones on American TV singing 'Time Is On My Side'. And, you believed him. He's still going to varying degrees of strength today! Time WAS on his side! Polvo of course sing 'Time Isn't On My Side' a subtle twist, i'll grant you, but a fairly important one. It's a completely different song by the way. In case you were wondering. We had The Beatles 'Revolver' a few years on from Mick celebrating all the time he had on his side. 'Revolver' even today is acclaimed as one of the finest examples of innovative guitar rock music. Take a listen to 'She Said, She Said' or 'And Your Bird Can Sing' and you'll see what I mean. Now, by this stage, if you are at all familiar with Polvo, you'll know what i'm getting at. Yes! Time was indeed NOT on their side. They never made any sort of commercial breakthrough whatsoever, and split up four years after the release of this, and a few subsequent albums. The guitar innovation of 'Revolver' and the songs I mentioned in particular? Well, Polvo had a fairly unique guitar sound of their own. Not too far removed from those two Beatles songs ( though a world removed from many other Beatle songs ). A twin guitar attack! A sound that sounds like ( hey! ) they are both playing completely different melodies, but AT THE SAME TIME! It also sounds like a Sonic Youth Beatles, if you can imagine such a thing. Just picture it! The thing is, this Polvo guitar sound is central to their music. There is generally more melody and interesting developments going on in one Polvo song, guitar wise, than a truckload of Green Day albums for example. And, another thing. It doesn't sound 'technical'. This isn't Stevie Vai were talking about here. I mentioned Sonic Youth? Its a sort of 'Teenage Riot' type of alternative sound we have here. And, i'll leave this lengthy but still vague description of the all important Polvo guitar sound alone now, and talk about the actual album!

    It's good!

    Well, perhaps a few more words. 'Thermal Treasure' completely rocks, rules, sways and sends me giddy. 'Tilebreaker' is a thing of sheer wonder, with hazy vocals and those all important Polvo melodies. The aforementioned 'Time Isn't On My Side' wears a slightly sad coat around its shoulders and moves through many different guitar sounds along the way. Second song, 'Lazy Comet' starts all Indian and then proceeds to blast your ears off. During the middle of 'Tilebreaker', where a peak of intensity is reached ( and, this Polvo music IS intense ) the singer screams 'OH YEAH!'. As well he might. A fabulous album from a much missed and unjustly overlooked group. They should have been huge, but the world doesn't always work that way of course.

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    Readers Comments

    Mark Prindle mprindle@nyc.rr.com
    Adrian's right. Polvo was an exceptional band. I was lucky enough to see them live 18 times (literally - 18 times. Actually it may have been 19) while living in Chapel Hill, NC during their reign of greatness. And if you can only find one of their records, THIS is the one. More innovative than five Sonic Youth albums put together, while at the same time being much more low-key and listenable (no sassy girl screaming!). I recommend this album to any Sonic Youth fan looking to take that next step. Then of course you also have to buy Polvo's "celebrate the new dark age" EP and "cor-crane secret" LP, both of which are even MORE "out there" than this one!!! Don't get their last album SHAPES though. They had become pretty generic by that point. :7(

    Richard edgecrest@yahoo.com
    Since I am here preaching to the choir and all, I will say that Polvo is one of my favorite bands. I had the priviledge to see them once on their very last tour(shapes) and it really was an incredible show. But that brings me to my dissent. I think that Shapes is a great album that is far from generic. In fact I think that this album strays even from that INDIE normality and this may be the reason that it is less accepted than Today's active lifestyles, cor-crane etc... . Go back and listen to the golden ladder, twenty white tents, el rocio and lantern. These are very different songs. They are not your averge indie fair--especially at the time.

    Charles Threatte cthreatte@yahoo.com
    Adrian is right on. Today's Active Lifestyles is a great album. 9.5/10 in my opinion. You also might want to look into some of Polvo's other releases (in addition to Celebrate The New Dark Age)low) like Cor Crane Secret (9/10), Exploded Drawing (8.5/10), and Shapes (8/10). Great band!


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    Celebrate The New Dark Age( 1994 )
    Fractured (Like Chandeliers) / City Spirit / Tragic Carpet Ride / Solitary Set / Every Holy Shroud / Old Lystra / Virtual Cold

    Imagine a bunch of Captain Beefheart muscians who were born in 1974 instead of 1954. Imagine they'd never met the good old captain and instead were fans of pre-nevermind Mudhoney and Sonic Youth albums. Imagine that post Nevermind, Polvo are the only band left standing of any worth to those music fans that adored the weird and wonderful alternative guitar bands that John Peel used to play, pre 'Nevermind'. You see, post 'Nevermind', everything changed, not altogether for the best. Even Tad were signed to a major label. Just imagine, for a second.... can't, can you? Yet, it was true. A key point in this particular little Polvo gem arrives during 'Every Holy Shroud'. "This is how it works when we write well", they sing. And how. The opening 'Fractured (Like Chandeliers)' is just such a glorious guitar noise. The interweaving polvo guitars do their trick, just the two guitars, plus bass - yet it sounds like six guitars, perfectly synchronised, yet not entirely. One of the six guitarists is deciding to add little embellishments. The entire emsemble, if its even correct of me to call Polvo such, sound like they don't give an inch. They sound so tight and they sound like a major label would listen to five seconds of 'Fractured (Like Chandeliers)' and run several thousand miles in the other direction. Yet, this is wonderful alternative guitar music of the highest order, as far as pure melodic guitar invention is concerned. They really had something, this band. If they split up due to public indifference, or personal differences - whatever - it's a crying shame.

    'City Spirit' is a sub three minute song that sounds like its come from space, 'Tragic Carpet Ride' is another of those prime steak delicious Polvo guitar workouts of the kind i've not quite heard any single other band ever do. 'Solitary Set' is more experimental, and I like this switching between prime Polvo and seeking to experiment. Both styles include magnificent Polvo guitar sounds, so that's fine. 'Old Lystra' I don't much care for, yet the closing 'Virtual Cold' is magnificent. At the time of writing, I still need several other Polvo albums/EPs. I still need 'Todays Active Lifestyles' on CD, as I only have it on Vinyl and I no longer have a record player..... Still, I'll track it all down. Polvo are a band for special occasions. For many occasions. For every occasion. Except weddings.

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    In Prism 9 ( 2009 ) more best albums...
    Right the Relation / D.C. Trails / Beggar's Bowl / City Birds / Lucia / Dream Residue-Work / The Pedlar / A Link in the Chain

    Polvo entered the studio in mid-March 2009 to record their first album in 12 years and the result is 'In Prism'. I never imagined they'd reform, I mean, it's not like they ever sold any quantity of records and their later releases seemed to miss the mark ever so slightly in that they tended to wander off the point and ramble aimlessly - whereas on their early records and right through to the two EPs they recorded post 'Today's Active Lifestyles' - the songs sounded strange but tight, just right in fact. For a band critically acclaimed from the outset, Polvo have returned to more positive reviews but it's fans who knew the bands music initially who have the most to celebrate. In short, 'In Prism' is bloody fantastic and the sort of album I thought that bands had forgotten how to make. This is a genuine alternative rock album seemingly unconcerned with the mainstream, or with making any kind of concessions. They've returned in fact sounding much like they did circa 'Celebrate The New Dark. Well, there are a few new textures here and there and the drummer, who is a new recruit to the band also adds dimensions to the Polvo sound. He sounds like, dare I say it, a proper rock drummer.

    Typical of Polvo records, 'In Prism' reveals its charms to you slowly. Also typical of Polvo, a couple of the longer tracks still tend to meander in places, but by and large, this is an album of such firm intelligence (polvo have been long dubbed 'Math Rock') that it's hard to know where to begin. They've still got their trademark bendy sounding guitars, the lyrics and vocals are still fairly unpronounced and often obtuse, yet always containing interesting imagery. I'll settle on a couple of highpoints, the bang back on form 'Right The Relation' and the addictive rhythms of 'Beggars Bowl'. 'Beggars Bowl' uses the twin Polvo guitar sound well, one providing the riffs, one plucking out a distinctive melodic thread that weaves through the lighter instrumental passages. 'Beggars Bowl' also manages to hypnotise and switch from these quieter sections to thrillingly noisy sections. 'Right The Relation' is just prime, classic Polvo - five minutes of odd time signatures, dynamics, catchiness, bendiness (?) and also certain sections that border on proper rock guitar that seem incongrous at first but later, just make you realise that during the twelve year break the members of Polvo didn't just stand still.

    All in all, strictly on paper this may not be the album of the year - in my heart it's definitely album of the year. The minor faults here and there just make the highpoints shine all the brighter. Not for Polvo ten tracks of well-produced mediocrity, or avant-garde experiments that lose sight of the listeners needs. No, Polvo are a band (although utterly unlike) to rank alongside Radiohead circa 'In Rainbows' in terms of achieving, seemingly easily, utter brilliance.

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    this page last updated 21/10/09


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