Shelf Life

A new album from Purling Hiss plus Record Store Day releases from Crispin Hellion Glover and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Purling Hiss, “Drag on Girard” (Drag City)

Known for kicking out the jams, Philly’s Purling Hiss can also be relied on to deliver melodic, ’90s-style rock earworms that betray a wide variety of influence. Had these songs arrived three decades ago, sandwiched between Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Dinosaur Jr.’s “Where You Been?” they would’ve fit nicely for Gen X slackers (who let’s admit it, have nothing on the quiet quitters of today). The band is the longtime project of singer-songwriter/guitarist Mike Polizze, a compatriot of Kurt Vile, who first gained notice with his lo-fi, nearly melted home recordings on which you could just make out the burnt corpses of catchy pop tunes buried beneath the magnetic tape rubble. On the seventh Hiss full-length album and first in six years, Polizze is backed by his longtime brethren Ben Leaphart on drums, Pat Hickey on bass, and original member Kiel Everett on second guitar. (When I saw Leaphart play with Polizze’s other band, Birds of Maya, the large outdoor crowd in Raleigh cheered after he knocked back a beer while drumming and tossed the still spewing can skyward without missing a beat).

Recorded by Jeff Zeigler, the new record is a loud one that feels at home cutting loose and leaning full-throttle into molten, hard-charging rockers like “Something in my Basement”(a standout track) and “Baby.” That could be because Polizze’s last release was a quiet and reflective solo album, “Long Lost Solace Found.” However, becoming a dad in the interim hasn’t mellowed out his playing. Anthemic, driving tunes like “Stay With Us,” and the head-nodding opener “Yer All in My Dreams,” bring to mind the damaged, country punk twang of early Dinosaur Jr. (who they’ve played with). It’s definitely music for fans of Dino, Monoshock, Spacemen 3, Crazy Horse, Soft Boys, and ‘74 Dodge Chargers. I usually gravitate toward Polizze’s more melodic stuff; he’s especially great at bittersweet, downtempo songs like album highlight, “When The End is Over,” which could’ve been a country crooner in another life. You get a sense that he’s still got a “Cortez the Killer”-style epic in him somewhere. Meanwhile, the band continues to build on its rock-solid canon, always seemingly on the verge of a modern classic.

Purling Hiss performs with Garcia Peoples and Chris Forsyth at DC9 in Washington, DC on Thursday, April 20.

A couple of Record Store Day (Saturday, April 22) releases:

Crispin Hellion Glover – “The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be” (Real Gone)

I’ve interviewed artist Crispin Glover a couple times, so I’m well aware of his eccentricity. Once I think he muted me during a phone interview and proceeded to answer one question for over 30 minutes, rambling until I was begging him to stop; it was all very Andy Kaufman-esque and funny in its own way. He did a similar thing after his last Byrd Theatre screening; his onstage Q&A with the audience lasted so long into the night that organizers were flashing lights at him to wrap it up (which he ignored). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that his 1989 album is a deeply weird record and a bit of an endurance test; a hybrid of Glover’s bizarre poetry mixed with cover songs and originals. Supposedly, Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh took him to a party where he met Barnes & Barnes, known for the Dr. Demento song “Fishheads,” and this mutant album was conceived.

Glover’s high vocals can sound like an overzealous teen on mushrooms learning to sing opera. Whether delivering a weepy, unhinged cover of Lee Hazlewood’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” or the dated, Dee Dee Ramone-like bad rapping in his pounding ode to masturbation, “Auto Manipulator,” Glover always seems as if he’s in the middle of a dramatic performance at a Renaissance Fair off Hollywood Boulevard, which makes this material more interesting not less. Musical accompaniment varies from industrial minimalism to acoustic guitars, synths or symphonic backing; on the more memorable tunes, Glover weds his Dadaist vibe to a simple melody, like “New Clean Song” or the oft-covered Charlie Manson ditty, “Never Say Never To Always,” delivered here a capella with ethereal harmonies.

Needless to say, this cult release is intended for diehard Glover fans, of which there are many. The Record Store Day release includes a poster and CD booklet featuring his “disturbed comic book scribblings” that graced only some copies of the original release. The reissue is pressed on light blue vinyl with Crimson “Clowny Clown Clown” splatter for you colored vinyl fetishists. Limited to 2,000 copies.

Medeski, Martin & Wood – “It’s A Jungle In Here” (Real Gone)

Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since this super-funky New York jazz trio dropped its sophomore release. Finally listening to it on vinyl, I can’t help but be reminded of the electric, mind-blowing shows the trio played in the early ‘90s at former local bar, Hole in the Wall, near VCU. Featuring much of this album’s material, the gigs were so jam-packed with awestruck folks that I can remember upright bassist Chris Wood using a bow on his instrument and nearly spearing someone’s Magic Burrito at the front table.

Often described as cerebral jazz, when the band was starting out it was more like a free-jazz Meters. The trio’s communal groove already felt telepathic, led by John Medeski’s brilliant Hammond B3 playing (and ever-so-funky Clavinet chops) and rounded out by Billy Martin’s expressive percussion work, which added colorful, improvisational flourishes along with Wood’s exploratory upright bass. Highlights include the shimmering, ’70s TV-funk of Medeski tune, “Wiggly’s Way,” covers of John Coltrane (“Syeeda’s Song Flute”), King Sunny Ade (“Moti Mo”) and an endearing mashup of Thelonious Monk and Bob Marley (“Bemsha Swing/Lively Up Yourself”). But one of my favorites here has always been the brief and beautiful composition, “Sand,” led by a sliding bass motif with a gorgeous fade of twinkling piano by Medeski that recalls Monk; someone should use it in a movie.

The Record Store Day release of this album is pressed on Clearwater blue vinyl and limited to 2,500 copies; exclusive for RSD. Fans should take note: there are more vinyl pressings of other early MMW albums on the way from Real Gone, which is bringing the group’s Gramavision recordings to vinyl for the first time.

Some other titles being released this Saturday for RSD:

Sparks – “s/t” and “A Woofer in a Tweeter’s Clothing”

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band – “I’m Going To Do What I Want to Do – Live at My Father’s Place 1978″

Miles Davis – “Turnaround: Unreleased rare from On The Corner”

Hal Blaine – “Psychedelic Percussion”

Justin Hinds and the Dominos – “Miss Wendell and the Book of History: The Nighthawk Mixes”

Wild Carnation – “Tricycle”

Sir Douglas Quintet – Texas Tornado – “Live from the Ash Grove – Santa Monica 1971”

Amanda Shires: “Live at Columbia Studio A” (She’ll be performing at Plan 9 Music in Caryown on RSD)

New Riders of the Purple Sage – “Lyceum ‘72”

Orville Peck – “Bronco”

Husker Du: “Tonite Longhorn”

The Pogues: “The Stiff Records B-Sides”

Jerry Harrison “The Red and The Black”

Jonathan Richman “Jonathan Goes Country”

Tom Tom Club – “s/t” (expanded edition)

The Sisters of Mercy –“ The Reptile House”

Sun Ra – “Haverford College, 1980”

Suicide – “A Way of Life – The Rarities EP”

Wilco – “Crosseyed Strangers: Alternate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”


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