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Quick Spin: Review of Polvo's 'In Prism'

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

IN PRISM

Polvo

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In the '90s, North Carolina's Polvo merged indie's stripped-down, do-it-yourself approachability with progressive rock's showoff skill set. It was complex, highly orchestrated music played with the rawness and aggression of punks beefing with the band geeks. Polvo offered guitar heroes for a generation suspicious of posing and preening -- even if frontman Ash Bowie had the glammest, most stadium-marquee-ready name in the underground.

The buzz around "In Prism," the band's first full-length in 12 years, is that Polvo crept quietly out of retirement to record an album that, miraculously, shames their earlier work. But it's more like the band picked up after its decade-plus hiatus without missing a jagged, off-kilter beat. "In Prism" offers the same mix of traditional rock swagger and brainy chops as the band's classic early-'90s albums.

The results, on slow-burning guitar duets such as "D.C. Trails," are anthemic without being cheesy, big without being theatrical. The cat's-cradle riffing of "Beggar's Bowl" is fearsomely obsessive, but Polvo still wants its audience banging their heads rather than stroking their chins like entry-level musicologists. (You just might need a neck rub after all the stopping and starting.) Pop fans probably won't spend their day unconsciously humming the tune of the average Polvo song. But "In Prism" is a pretty sweet reminder of a time when indie rockers considered six-string acrobatics very serious business.

Polvo performs Sept. 26 at the Black Cat.

-- Jess Harvell

DOWNLOAD THESE: "D.C. Trails," "Beggar's Bowl"


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