I've been on a roll with guitar-centric albums lately...reviewed Kinski yesterday (awesome, more later) and today Dusted is running my Purling Hiss review.
Water on Mars
Purling Hiss, the guitar-squalling offshoot of Birds of Maya’s Mike Polizze, first caught most people’s attention with a roiling, overdriven self-titled album put out by Permanent Records in 2009. Tracks like “Almost Washed My Hair” nudged at the intersection of noise and hard-rock anthemry, with the distortion and feedback pushed to the foreground, the vocals nearly buried in volcanic chaos. Hissteria, released a year later, continued in the same promising vein, all stomp and churn and obliterating amplification.
Yet, Polizze also unveiled Public Service Announcement, an older experiment in folky melody and acoustic strumming, more like sometime touring partner Kurt Vile than Comets on Fire or Hawkwind. It was at least a confusing move, and maybe a confounding one. Ben Donnelly, reviewing Public Service Announcement for Dusted, closed this way: “If the word-of-mouth continues, this will be the record where the conversation goes: ‘Well, I heard this one album, and I don’t get what the fuss is about.’ ‘If it’s the one where the guy on the cover is sitting, you gotta hear the other ones.’”
Listening to Water on Mars, however, I’m not so sure PSA was a significant detour. This fourth Purling Hiss album takes a lot of what was exhilarating about the self-titled and Hissteria and adds some structure and melody. It bridges the considerable distance between Purling Hiss and Public Service Announcement -- and, in the process, improves on both. The hard stuff (“Water on Mars,” “Lolita”) is easier to parse. The soft songs have significantly more spine.