BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Philadelphia power trio (accent on the power) Purling Hiss have bashed out a handful of rough ‘n’ ready waxy slabs of rock over the last few years that have served more as calling cards to its concerts than artistic documents. Given the jam-friendly group’s propensity for live euphoria but recorded disappointment, it’s a relief to hear that the Hiss has finally hit its stride in the studio with Water On Mars.
It’s partly just upgraded sound – instead of the low-fi sludge that’s blunted the edge of previous platters, producer/engineer Jeff Zeigler, co-producer/The War On Drugs lead Adam Granduciel and Hiss head honcho Mike Polizze go for a mid-fi approach that substitutes crap for clarity. But it’s also because Polizze has penned a set of songs about more than six-string overload. Purling pop tunes “Mercury Retrograde” and “Rat Race” emphasize melody and Polizze’s winsome voice over riffs, while “She Calms Me Down” and “The Harrowing Wind” evoke raw but pretty folk rock. That’s not to say the band has gone soft – “Face Down” and “Lolita” kick out the jams, motherhumpers, while the title track wallows in psychedelic scree. A song-based Hiss may be off-putting to air guitarists, but its new knack for melody moves its music forward and makes the brainmelting action more potent.
DOWNLOAD: “Mercury Retrograde,” “The Harrowing Wind,” “Lolita” (www.dragcity.com)