Posts Tagged ‘ash bowie’

POLVO at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

August 14, 2010

13 August 2010

Post rock legends, POLVO, played a tight set at Lee’s Palace on Friday night in Toronto, giving aging fanboys one last chance to get their rocks off to the twisted tunings and weirdo time signatures that made Polvo revered and adored in the mid-nineties. Polvo called it quits in 1998 after the release of their sixth album Shapes, but returned last year with the excellent In Prism, and luckily Toronto was one of the stops on their brief summer tour with Versus.

On paper this line-up is my high school wet dream: Polvo and Versus playing together! It seemed too good to be true . . . and in the end, it was. Versus’ drummer, Ed Baluyut, was a no-show because his wife had a baby, so the drummer for opening band Soft Copy filled in. Under the circumstances, he did a great job, but was obviously hesitant. They managed to play hits “Blade of Grass”, “River” and “Be-9” from The Stars are Insane, which ended up sounding pretty good, but overall it just wasn’t how I imagined it.

Polvo hit the stage next and were amazingly tight. Ridiculously tight. Hard to explain how good they were. They opened with an extended version of “Fast Canoe” that varied from the original but sounded fantastic. They debuted a new song, and played “The Pedlar”, “Right the Relation” and “Beggars Bowl” off of In Prism, “Thermal Treasure”, “Lazy Comet”, and “My Kimono” from Today’s Active Lifestyles, “Bombs that Fall from your Eyes” from This Eclipse, “Feather of Forgiveness” from Exploded Drawing, “Enemy Insects” from Shapes and other hits. In short, it was a great show. You really couldn’t complain.

But overall it made me feel strange. As if I shouldn’t be allowed to see Polvo again after all these years. They are a memory and should stay that way. All these reunion shows over the last few years have us churning up nostalgia in massive quantities, watching older versions of the heroes of our youth trying to relive the days of their youth — and even though it’s wonderful to be able to see your favourite band again, it’s just never quite the same.

Ian Cohen’s review on Pitchfork of The Suburbs by Arcade Fire says that the main focus of their new album is on the “quiet desperation borne of compounding the pain of wasting your time as an adult by romanticizing the wasted time of your youth.” There is something very profound in this quote that resonates with me, and my experience of seeing a decade older Polvo blast out the hits made me think of this. You see, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, a goddamn sap, I love to stir up old feelings that I can’t quite comprehend anymore, love to secretly get weepy over times gone by — but now as I’m figuring out how to step confidently into my early thirties, I feel it’s time to leave this old stuff behind, it’s time only for constant steps forward and further and onward.

Sure, it’s nice to go back every now and again, but that was it for me. The clincher. Seeing Polvo and Versus was the culmination of the very end of my youth. There. It is done. I am a motherfucking adult. Finally.

Thank you Polvo and Versus for helping me affirm this once and for all.

Polvo – In Prism (Merge Records)

August 23, 2009


Chapel Hill, NC quartet Polvo will release “In Prism” on September 8th with Merge Records — their first album of new material since 1997’s “Shapes”. 12 years! This makes me feel kinda old, but still, I am thrilled to see the group back together and making new music. Polvo were perhaps the most influential band for me during my own music making days, with their crooked tunings, fucked-up time signatures, and surreal energy. They along with a few other ‘post-rock’ bands (i.e. Slint, Tortoise, June of 44) helped define and sway the way I wrote songs until I fully embraced electronic music in the early 2000’s.

Now a dozen years have flipped by in a daydream, and Polvo have returned with “In Prism”. Recorded as always by Brian Paulson, the new material is exactly what you would expect from them. It’s dark, moody, catchy, and off-kilter. It may be a bit more straight-forward than their earlier work, the production may be a touch cleaner, and the overall tempo slightly slower (think “Fast Canoe”, instead of “Tragic Carpet Ride”), but this is a mature, wiser Polvo, and they do not disappoint. And even though Paulson’s production is cleaner, it’s still his most dynamic recording to date with the band.

The riff of opening track “Right the Relation” sounds like a crunchier “Thermal Treasure” and is a good example of the ‘more straight-forwardness’ I mentioned above, while other tracks like “City Birds” and “Dream Residue/Work” play as if mined from old recording sessions — like secret B-sides from “Exploded Drawing” and “Shapes”. Long time fans will never be able to call this their best album, but hell if it ain’t an amazingly welcome addition to their discography.

A near seamless return. Great work boys. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the few U.S. cities they are touring this fall, go and see them rip it up old-skoool. Peace.