Review Summary: An inbred marriage of proto-post rock and harsh guitar-based indie rock.
Polvo: it means dust in Spanish. Appropriate for a band that a decade after their heyday would be deemed “destined for indie-rock obscurity” by the biggest hipster rag in America. But whether or not Today’s Active Lifestyles exhibits a band that is just that, or something far more impressive and endearing is up to the listener.
And it seems like they’ve spoken. I mean, when was the last time you heard anyone talk about Polvo? And I don’t mean your immigrant maid.
Regardless, Today’s Active Lifestyles is a great release from a band whose sound is exciting, even after so many years. The mathy dissonance, twisting melodies and ear-piercing harmonics that get coupled with such sweet vocals might remind of Yo La Tengo covering Slint, but ‘Sure Shot’ has much more clear contemporaries. For this song imagine early Flaming Lips (it’s the chorusing effect and the idle drumbeat that do it) but far more proficient at their instruments, and with a different goal in mind. On ‘Stinger (Five Wigs)’ the music is more hectic and confusing, but the clarity of each instrument is something truly impressive. It’s also the longest song on a CD with a fairly manageable duration, which makes it stick out all the more.
Another thing about Active Lifestyles that impresses, however subtle it may be, is the bass. Bass guitarist Steve Popson has a fairly lame tone, it’s flaccid, far too low and lacks the punch of the band’s guitar-sound, but that’s exactly why it succeeds. It’s so different-sounding from the guitar, an ever more present feature in the record’s mix, that it stands out and becomes audible. But that’s not to say Polvo isn’t a guitar band through and through, because they certainly were. And who wasn’t in ’93? Tuned oddly, angular, indistinct and played with persistence and vigor, guitars are really what define Polvo. And at the risk of making this into a track-by-track by describing three songs chronologically, ‘Tilebreaker’ is the personification of all these traits. Bassy bass, noisy guitar, and one of the record’s most complete and enjoyable choruses to boot: it’s hard to say that ‘Tilebreaker’ really isn’t everything this record stands for in one track. I’m not going to sit here and say this band hasn’t faded into anonymity, nor that they were entirely pivotal in the evolution of the genres of Math Rock, Post Rock and Indie, but they sure did write some good stuff.