Just Another Garage-Rock Album
Purling Hiss’ newest record Weirdon sounds overwhelmingly familiar, and upon listening one just might wonder if they have heard one of its 11 tracks played in a Starbucks sometime during the past five years. Backed by earnest, power-poppy instrumentation it isn’t necessarily a bad album, however it isn’t necessarily memorable either. Much of it seems to be stuck within an artistic purgatory void of any visible direction, rotating on a continuous loop of low-key psychedelic tuning. For all the guitar-heavy experimentation to be found on Weirdon (which occasionally proves compelling on “Where’s Sweetboy” and “I Don’t Wanna Be A…”), the record comes up remarkably short when trying to carve out a distinctive sound.
Album opener “Forcefield of Solitude” sounds as mundane as Purling Hiss’ three members aim to appear, dressed in baggy jeans and over-worn T-shirts, however – and just as with their wardrobe- elements of pretention edge from underneath the surface. While front man Mike Polizze’s guitar playing is worthy of some sort of commendation, it only serves to mask the record’s pervasive lack of inspiration. Behind the livened solos “Solitude” introduces an overcompensation of sorts, fighting to maintain a reputation nobody ever challenged.
Following tracks “Another Silver Moon” and “Aging Faces” become similarly lost within watered-down jangles, both comprising the album’s weakest moments. “Sundance Saloon Boogie” is an indie tune that awkwardly fluctuates between pop and grunge, and “Learning Slowly” spends its running time fruitlessly searching for a punk vibe. The only aspect of regularity between the songs is how irregular they all are contextually; there are no overarching qualities to convince one that any belong together.
The finest moment of Weirdon, however, comes with its final song, “Six Ways To Sunday.” In a true haze of muddy, impassioned guitar Polizze establishes clarity amid the distortion, and rides on an eight minute long hook of technical prowess. While not enough to save the album from playing out as nothing more than ‘okay,’ “Six Ways” lends itself as a welcomed jam within an album ostensibly comprised of Nirvana tribute songs.
It’s odd that these Philadelphia golden boys churned out Weirdon, as their past releases have specialized in the sort of weird only attainable through the inventiveness of DIY channels. The band’s lo-fi charm was displayed proudly on their eponymous 2009 release, as well 2010’s Hissteria and 2011’s Dizzy Polizzy. Here the spirit is only partially preserved, or perhaps it is just residual from their previous work. Weirdon simply is not weird enough.