POLVO "Heavy Detour" 7"

There's an analogy floating about the internet that goes, and I paraphrase: “Pizza is like sex – when it's good, it's great, and when it's bad, it's still pretty good.” Surely the same could be said of Polvo, a group formed in 1990 that split eight years later and then made an unexpected but welcome return in 2009 with In Prism. The only way to rate Polvo is against themselves, because they've always been a step above others in their genre—wildly guitar-driven indie rock (very much in the “'90s alt-rock” sense) that would pave the way for math rock, with riffs challenging but not overindulgent, unconventional tuning, and Asian-inspired flair.

To say that their comeback record was a bit of a disappointment only holds true when measured against their own best records—arguably Today's Active Lifestyles and the Celebrate the New Dark Age EP, respectively released in 1993 and 1994. The same could potentially be said of their late '90s releases as well, though; an album like Exploded Drawing contained memorable parts (refer to the opening riff of “Fast Canoe” for one), but was somewhat dull next to what the band had previously created, and was capable of creating.

So, “Heavy Detour.” Polvo quite possibly realized the appeal of their earlier work after the release of In Prism, which was well and good as a rock album but boasted none of the embellishments that had once set them apart. “Heavy Detour,” then, the first single off a new record that's yet to be named or dated, sees a return to those Asian-inspired pulloffs that adorned their work from the mid 1990s. Only here, they get lost in a fair bit of overproduction and a synthetic orchestra that weighs too heavily, disappointments topped only by the fact that Ash Bowie's darling lisp has been replaced by a voice in bluesy rhythm that sounds raspy, aged, and tired. B-side “Anchoress” is more a return to form and reminds of a bit of “City Spirit” (Celebrate the New Dark Age), but also begs to be forgiven for its flat vocals, and finds the group sounding as creatively spent as they have ever been, which, again, means that the track would pass for a decent single from any other group, and is an example of a band that fares better than most reunion efforts. But for a band of Polvo’s caliber, it doesn’t provide the thrill of anticipation that’s needed to try and lure in the crowd prior to a fresh record or tour. [Merge]

-China Bialos

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