(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: Polica – United Crushers

By on Tuesday, 29th March 2016 at 12:00 pm

Polica United Crushers album coverThere’s something extremely dark and brooding about this third outing from Minneapolis alt indie/dance group Poliça, even more so than their prior efforts. It becomes the musical version of the tail end of a thunderstorm As in, you know something big has happened but there’s a calm serenity afterward. Supporting this initial metaphor is the opening track ‘Summer Please’, for obvious reasons. Within this track also, along with the title of the record itself, there are some serious political undertones. Upon reading the lyrics, something that is necessary due to the effects and processing applied to the vocals, you’re greeted with the world left for the youth. “Whatcha wanna be, when you’re big enough to realise it’s all shit…I’ve got mine, I’ll be fine”. It’s always good to open an album with a statement, may as well make it an approachable one.

The swelling and consuming action within the synthesisers and instruments is integral to the sound Poliça create, mainly because without it, you might find your interest waning slightly. The soundscapes created by the group are haunting and brooding but can feel mildly empty at times. While the lyrical content helps carry this emptiness, filling their songs with thought and purpose, though even this attempt can have sparse effect, the words juddering across rather than being a free-flowing expression.

There’s no doubting that there’s a beauty to be found within this record. At times, it’s delicate, especially with singer Channy Leaneagh’s soft, yet urgent vocals. This is prominent in the track ’Melting Block’, where she goes from matching the cadence of the instruments to suddenly soaring above them almost effortlessly. However, the overall rhythm of the album is largely flat, motioning toward more of a never-ending cyclical electronic beat rather than having a natural life of its own. Almost every song has an instantaneous introduction, allowing no room for an atmosphere to be built, so it’s a constant assault after each song. Sometimes when you’re listening to an album, a palate cleanser is needed to appreciate each song. But when the majority of the songs kick in from the get-go, you lose this perspective.

To really appreciate what Poliça are doing with this record requires a certain mindset. You can find yourself going from fully invested to mindlessly forgetting what song you’re on, all within the same track. The most interesting the album gets is on ‘Baby Sucks’, which flows nicely after prior track ‘Berlin’. The latter is a slow, sometimes stumbling number, while the latter channels late ‘90s dance music to great aplomb, even including a brief spurt of saxophone at the crescendo.

What would have made this record a fully formed idea, rather than a daydream, is calling back to the sounds of yesteryear as shown in ‘Baby Sucks’. This is where they manage to emulate the feeling from that era’s sound rather than just dawdle along creating a miser’s techno fantasy. If this method were applied to the rest of the album, they would find themselves with a much stronger result, but of course the whole idea behind creation is to experiment and try different things, which is something Poliça cannot be accused of not doing.


Polica’s third album ‘United Crushers’ is out now via Mom + Pop Music. For more on Polica on TGTF, go here.

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