Drag on Girard
Where’d ya go, Purling Hiss? After releasing six albums in seven years, you left us hanging for a successor for the same length of time. Were we looking in the wrong bin at the record store? As an artistic entity, the garage-rock outfit reflects the thorniness that can come with a multi-instrumentalist releasing solo material under their own name or eponymously. Mike Polizze originally conceived Purling Hiss in 2009 only to truly reinvent the project with successive releases.
Early records saw Polizze, also of Philadelphia psych-rock band Birds of Maya, using Purling Hiss as the name for his home studio recordings. Over time, Purling Hiss became an all-out rock band, with multiple members in its own right, leading up to the third album, Water on Mars, in 2013. Because Purling Hiss had taken on a life and (cleaner) sound of their own, when it came time for Polizze to release his proper debut album, it made sense that he used his own name; Long Lost Solace dropped in July 2020.
With all that in mind, seven years elapsed between Purling Hiss’ 2016 LP High Bias and their new full-length—technically speaking. But in actuality, it may as well be named The Dinosaur Jr. Covers Record instead of Drag on Girard. While comparisons to J Mascis’ influential band have dogged Purling Hiss for years, on their newest material, they sound more Dinosaur-ish than ever before. More so than on previous outings, Polizze’s vocal styling characterizes him as a shrugging, jaded introvert who can’t muster the energy to get out of bed—in other words, Mascis by another name. The opening track “Yer All in My Dreams” even nods to the naming technique occasionally used by Mascis and a litany of grunge bands.
And yet Polizze can’t quite reach the range of Mascis’ guitar-solo heroics (aside from a few impressive turns on “Out the Door”). Don’t blame him for lack of trying—as he did on his band’s 12-minute song “Down on the Delaware River” from 2010. But don’t expect to hear many new ideas from Purling Hiss, either. When the smoke clears, we’re left with an uneven listen from someone who really wants to make a point they can’t quite articulate. As a compilation of previously unreleased archival material, Drag on Girard works. But as a studio full-length seven years in the works, it’s a lackluster listen.