Purling Hiss are a band that can’t really be labeled. As soon as you think you know who they are the sound changes. Mike Polizze and his Purling Hiss project began as an experimental outlet for him to record his white noise and fuzz-drenched solo songs, but it turned into more than that. Comparisons to Dinosaur Jr and fIREHOSE weren’t unfounded, but pigeonholing the Philly native as an 80s and 90s indie rock revivalist wasn’t what Polizze had in mind. With 2013s Water On Mars, Purling Hiss blew the speakers with album opener “Lolita”, a frontal lobe-melting scorcher that sounded like Nirvana’s In Utero re-imagined as a scuzz rock masterpiece. From there though, the album skated from sound to sound. In 2014 Polizze followed up Water On Mars with the folksy Weirdon. If you thought you had Purling Hiss pegged, you were dead wrong, and Mike Polizze was happy to point that out song after song.
Well Purling Hiss are back with High Bias, probably their most consistent record to date. It’s a punky, power chord-fueled affair that balances between unabashed, upbeat rock and roll and late-70s hardcore punk workouts that while differ in attitude, always seem to follow the same rock and roll spirit.
“Fever” is a balls out rock and roll barn burner and a hell of an opening salvo. It’s as if T.Rex and the Ramones mind melded somewhere between “Jeepster” and “Judy Is A Punk”. No saccharine or sentiment, just sweat and buzzing amps. “3000 AD” sounds like a lost Cult track with bits of Screaming Trees thrown in for good measure, while “Notion Sickness” has a Dead Kennedys vibe in both the punk rock squall and Polizze’ Jello Biafra-affected vocals. “Follow You Around” is an all-out early 90s indie rock tune, complete with Lemonheads-like vocals and a Dino Jr lean in the guitar jangle.
Mike Polizze makes no qualms about his love of those early 90s indie rock inspirations and you can certainly hear ’em in his tunes. But he’s also enough of an individual and musical voice that he doesn’t need to recreate Lollapalooza ’93 on every song. Case in point, “Teddy’s Servo Motors”. It’s a nearly 7-minute post-punk banger that has as much in common with Polvo as it does METZ. This is what makes Purling Hiss such an exciting band and what makes Mike Polizze an engaging songwriter, singer, and guitarist. I think Polizze could shred on every song if he wanted to, but instead he pushes his guitar prowess into repetition and monster riffs. “Get Your Way” sounds like Jesus and Mary Chain covering the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again”, while “Pulsations” is another post-punk staccato attack. “Everybody In The USA” is an 11-minute psychedelic trip that goes from Mudhoney’s “Mudslide” to Dead Kennedys’ “California Uber Alles” and back again. It may run a few minutes too long, but Purling Hiss don’t really care. And in the end, neither should I.
Purling Hiss’ High Bias shows Mike Polizze in a fuzzed-out rock and roll mood with little letting up throughout the album’s 9-ear shattering tracks. Amidst a sea of faux rock and roll bands and over-produced, plastic artists it’s refreshing to have a new Purling Hiss record. Something that has feeling. Something that feels alive with blemishes, scars, faults, and jagged edges that’ll cut you if you’re not careful. Makes me want to sew some patches on my jean jacket, put on some hi-tops, and turn my amp up to 11 in the garage.
High Bias is out 10/14/16 via Drag City.