North Carolina's Polvo distinguished themselves as one of America's most interesting rock bands of the '90s, a sort of Southern Sonic Youth, but with a greater emphasis on East Asian scales—even though their members probably had never visited the region—and no Kim Gordon equivalent in their ranks. In an interview in The Stranger from 2008, guitarist Ash Bowie noted that his and Dave Brylawski's unusual guitar sounds derived from "a combination of using cheap, shitty guitars and goofing around." Thankfully, Polvo's "goofing" yielded some of the most fascinating rock tunesmithing of the Bill Clinton era. Besides being masters of weird tunings and math-PhD dynamics, Polvo could write a catchy, serpentine melody when the mood struck them.
In one of the year's more encouraging developments, Merge Records is reissuing on February 28 Polvo's first two full-lengths: Cor-Crane Secret and Today's Active Lifestyles, which have been damn near impossible to find on vinyl since their respective releases in 1992 and 1993.
The band really came into their own with the latter record; the songs bear greater torque, more outré guitar tones, and more memorable melodies. "Sure Shot" is one of many highlights here. On it, Bowie and Brylawski's bizarrely twangy guitars strafe with mad precision while bassist Steve Popson and drummer Eddie Watkins handle the surprising roller-coasting rhythms with aplomb. Man, did I put this track on a lot of mixtapes in the mid '90s... "Sure Shot" still sounds fantastic a quarter century later.