Purling Hiss - Water On Mars (3 stars)

Polished up tunes of second album are still caked in good-ol’ low-down dirty fuzz

Purling Hiss - Water On Mars

(Drag City)

After several years floating around Philadelphia in the same trashy, lo-fi puddle as fellow longhairs Kurt Vile and The War On Drugs, Mike Polizze – for Purling Hiss (toiletal pun ahoy) is essentially he – has polished up his act some with second album Water On Mars, much as his tunes might remain caked in good-ol’ low-down dirty fuzz.

Where Purling Hiss’s 2010 debut Public Service Announcement sounded like it was recorded very quickly, while very high, on very low-quality equipment – such has been the recent curious fascination among certain hip US indie sorts for self-recording in such a way as to nostalgically replicate the tinny scuzz of tapes of their youth (see also: Ariel Pink, Ducktails, John Maus) – Water On Mars finds Polizze stepping blinking into the light of an actual studio. Not that he seems overly enamoured by its boundless multi-tracking potential: Water On Mars ditches the retro crusty schtick and benefits from tidier mixes, but stays firmly rooted to power-trio rigours, with drummer Mike Sneeringer and bassist Kiel Everett laying down economically powerful rhythm tracks across which Polizze smears a woe-betide-me slackery drawl and guitar anti-heroics power-hosing on the wailing overdrive and wah-wah.

‘Lolita’ weds a Dinosaur Jr-alike alt-rock riff to a throaty vocal that’s pure grunge. Evidently beholden to the full spectrum of American gutter guitar music, Polizze will mix and match as he chooses, thank you very much. ‘Mercury Retrograde’ – the best song on the album – could be a west coast harmonic pop song dragged through the mud. Acoustic death rattle ‘Dead Again’ calls on much of the laugh-a-minute cheer that made Kurt Cobain so famous, while ‘Face Down’ is practically paint-by-numbers Iggy and The Stooges. Polizze remains some way from presenting a songwriter who disseminates his influences rather than simply mimics them, then. But now that he’s made a clean spot in all the mucky production that once shrouded Hurling Piss – sorry, Purling Hiss – well, there might yet be a proper band under there somewhere.

Purling Hiss "Mercury Retrograde"

Purling Hiss WATER ON MARS Promo Video

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