A handy primer to Polvo’s best.
On the coldest, most rain-soaked night of Camp Bisco (see cover story) I decided to break off from the thousands of campers who stood in the downpour to watch their favorite band, and go get drunk. By this time the concert field had been ruined, turned into a soupy mud, and I remember thinking it was insane that anyone would travel to upstate New York from wherever they were from (saw one license plate from Cali) to watch this band play in what had been turned into the world’s most perfect pneumonia lab.
Only it’s not insane, really. Because that’s what you do for you favorite band. You travel to see them. You risk catching the sniffles.
Last year, after Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Polvo got back together after a 10-year layoff, I caught them in Washington D.C., New York City and Chicago. I love these guys, and now, a year later, they’re finally coming to Philly in advance of their new album (!) In Prism , out in September on Merge.
Below, I’ve included a handy guide to some of Polvo’s best. (Peep philadelphia weekly.com for the tracks.)
Today’s Active Lifestyles
The year is 1993 and those of us wise enough to not write Polvo off as Sonic Youth Lite are eagerly awaiting the release of the band’s second full-length on Merge. Today’s Active Lifestyles hits indie record shops with little more than a thud but gradually builds steam over some months as the record to own among self-satisfied music nerds.
It’s a juggernaut, a mind-warping, back-breaking sonic kick in the throat. It’s downright weird—crunchy blasts of guitar patched through a dense tapestry of vibrato and effects that make them sound like newly discovered instruments from space, tiny snippets of sitar, Nintendo game soundtracks with a backbeat and some balls. The album is so new, so fresh, those early comparisons to Sonic Youth are rendered absurd. Polvo have smashed expectations for those who had them, and written a new script for those who’d dismissed the band’s debut Cor-Crane Secret (also pretty goddamn stellar).
Every song on Lifestyles is amazing, but it’s “Lazy Comet” that’s the real heater. Equal parts weird and straightforward, the “solo” starting at 2:19 will either inspire you to pick up a guitar or pack it away forever in a huff of defeated shame, overcome by the knowledge you’ll never be this good.
When Polvo’s double LP (and debut for Touch and Go) came out, expectations were unrealistically high. The band was already batting 1000 with their previous releases, and it was just kind of a given that the streak had to end somewhere. Drawing was another base knock though, and “Fast Canoe” let’s you know, from the album’s first guitar line, that these guys were still capable of digging in for extra bases. Why I chose baseball and not boating analogies for a song called “Fast Canoe,” I don’t know.
Celebrate the New Dark Age
I spoke with Polvo guitarist Dave Brylawski last week, and he told me he had a friend at camp whose father owned Jim’s Steaks. Brylawski lives in New York City now, and sometimes finds himself craving a steak from Jim’s, so he drives down to Philly every once in awhile to grab the South Street staple. This anecdote has absolutely nothing to do with “Old Lystra,” an instrumental song which uses a guitar slide to great and new effect. Deal with it.
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