Album Review: Polvo ‘Siberia’

Polvo_Siberia_LP_11183Of all the recently reunited 90s Alt Rock outfits, the lesser spotted Polvo stake a more valid claim than most to a second stab at existence, having not really been paid their dues the first time around. Unlike most reunions, Polvo’s wasn’t necessarily fuelled by a groundswell of born again devotees voting with their feet for reappraisal, and it might just be this lack of expectation that has them sounding like no time at all has passed between their demise in 1998 and their reformation a decade later. Despite some deceptively pedestrian Indie distortion slinging, the woozy cephalopodic tremolo and angle grinding of Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski’s intermingling riffs fray at the ends with non sequiturs that distort the space and time signatures of Brian Quast’s beats and Steve Popson’s humming undercurrent.

While the Pixies’ have taken 10 years to take a proper stab at wringing out some original material, Polvo started where they left off, rapidly assembling the disciplined ‘In Prism’, which more than made up for their disappointing swan song, 1998’s ‘Shapes’. Apart from ‘In Prism’s lead off single ‘Beggar’s Bowl’ which initially left an incongruously bad aftertaste of Linkin Bizkits, the 8 track album itself was a more measured repackaging of the band’s essentials, a formula adhered-to but expanded-on on ‘Siberia’.

Emerging on the 20th anniversary of the band’s shining moment of irreverent perfection, 1993’s ‘Today’s Active Lifestyles‘, the Octo-songed ‘Siberia’ bears predominantly more in common with it’s predecessor while still displaying moments of flailing greatness reminiscent of that touchstone of the band’s canon. Opener ‘Total Immersion’ rips open the album promisingly with a fretboard shredding statement of intent, followed by the more melodic and playful ‘Blues is Loss’, which gives way to the bizarre, synth driven ‘Light, Raking’ that sounds like Math Rock’s answer to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’.


After the plodding respite of ‘Changed’, mid point highlight ‘The Water Wheel’ is the album’s only real candidate for a single, hampered only by the profane and laughable observation of the manifestation of “tiny fucking rainbows…”, which never fails to deliver a cringe and admittedly gets me wondering ‘how fucking magnets work’, but in spite of this its poppier, more traditional hook driven structure has begrudgingly become a guilty pleasure, and arguably my favourite on the album. The acoustic driven ‘Ancient Grains’ recovers some of the more Eastern sounding influence evident in their earlier output, while ‘Some Songs’ sounds like a late seventies AOR classic from a better dimension.

Dissipating with the irrepressible, rumbling cortege of the previously unveiled B side ‘Anchoress‘, ‘Siberia’ proves a more assured and satisfying outing than ‘In Prism’. Polvo were influential but under-appreciated their first go around, but while they aren’t likely to convert the fresh slew of 90s disciples, they provide an imagination and freshness not evident in this ever increasing number of bands 20 years their junior, attempting to emulate the sounds Polvo helped pioneer.

‘Siberia’ is available from MERGE records now.

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

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