The Upshot: Best Purling Hiss album yet, channeling a tidal wave of noise into songs that you can remember almost immediately and even hum to yourself later.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Seven years on from its start as a home-recording project, Purling Hiss has evolved into a monstrously good band, loud as fuck, enamored of red-zone distortion but with a foundation of tuneful-ness that cuts through the crust of noise and sends these songs home.
High Bias is Mike Polizze’s sixth album under the Purling Hiss name, but only the third to really capitalize on the power trio format. Polizze plays guitar and sings. Ben Leaphart, who is in Bardo Pond spin-off Aye Aye and replaced Meg Baird as Watery Love’s drummer, is back again on the kit, and Dan Provenzano of the really, pretty scorching Writhing Squares replaces Kiel Everett on bass. Not surprisingly, the sound is grounded in hypnotically heavy guitar psych (of a particularly Philadelphian kind), yet it’s leavened with a nimble attention to melody that animates grind and drone and makes it dance.
The first two songs are among the best. “Fever” a fog-bound, fuzz-blasted head trip, rages and clatters furiously, though the vocals are surprisingly soft and dreamy, a lighthouse beam cutting through the storm. The instrumental mayhem pulls up short every once in a while, and someone, probably Polizze, yelps as if electric-shocked, “What?” It’s as if even the people in the band are a little surprised at how hard this thing rocks. “3000 A.D.” is even better, its rain of guitar strums pelting down but also lifting up, opening up the sound like a crack in the clouds that lets the sun through.
Those two songs, as well as the long closer “Everybody in the USA” are more or less what you’d expect from Purling Hiss only better, a variety of heavy psychedelic, guitar rock that echoes 1960s bands like Blue Cheer, Iron Maiden and Vanilla Fudge. Yet as the album goes on, Polizze and crew mix things up, jacking a hardcore punk rhythm under “Notion Sickness” and “Pulsations,” churning up a motorik propulsion on “Teddy’s Servo Motors” and, in the album’s most surprising moment, unspooling a jangly, splintering romantic pop in “Follow You Around.” The band accomplishes all these twists and turns without losing its essential self, too. There’s a thread of blistering, annihilating psych onslaught that runs through it all like an electric current, so that the album works as a whole despite the variety.
High Bias is the best Purling Hiss album yet, channeling a tidal wave of noise into songs that you can remember almost immediately and even hum to yourself later when the album’s out of ear shot. It’s not exactly what you’d predict coming from Weirdon or Water on Mars, but it continues the narrative in an interesting way. And it rocks, oh yes it does.
DOWNLOAD: “Fever” “3000 A.D.” “Everybody in the USA”