Album Reviews

Purling Hiss: Drag on Girard

The Philly veterans return with their first LP in seven years.

While Philly DIY stalwarts, Purling Hiss, have been in and around the new music landscape without releasing a full-length since the excellent 2016 offering High Bias, the band members have kept the wheel spinning with a couple of EPs, whilst also floating in other orbits. Namely Mike Polizze and Ben Leaphart’s Birds of Maya, who shook the frost off the fence with 2001’s Valdez, and while the ’Hiss have toured over the past 12 months, the embers of new material had been stirring prior to the release of their seventh LP, Drag on Girard.

No messing, just plugging in and letting the freak-outs follow, Purling Hiss have remained constants in the DIY sphere, inspiring many around them, including fellow Philadelphians and Sun 13 regulars under the Strange Mono stable.

deathcrash: Less

The hits and good times keep coming on Drag on Girard – an album brimming with unapologetic, road-trip anthems, as Purling Hiss present the upper reaches of riffs, rhythms and melodies extracted from the greats and thrown into the lo-fi mincer.

On opening track, Yer All In My Dream, and later with Out the Door, Polizze, Leaphart and Pat Hickey unleash open-hearted, fuzz-laden Dinosaur Jr. homage. A sun-gazing trip with warm feedback and bedroom mirror riff-a-rolla that would even get the broken down rock ’n’ curmudgeon out of his La-Z-Boy for a note or two.

With Something in my Basement, Purling Hiss turn up the heat, and the results are excellent. With a My Bloody Valentine thrum tossed in with Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s outhouse jams, this is the first of several new explorations throughout Drag on Girard.

Purling Hiss - Drag on Girard

It continues on Baby and When the End is Over. With the standard Purling Hiss grimy basement charm, here the band echo the power-pop splendour of Big Star. On the latter in particular, as Polizze becomes unusually contemplative. It’s hard to remember Purling Hiss sounding so inward, but with time and events of the last three years, it seems almost inevitable.

While the lo-fi rinse of Stay With Us sees Purling Hiss sticking to their roots, the title track sees them marauding across new terrains. Nestled between the origins of krautrock and drone, this is like diesel-powered journey rock. Instant and locked in, Purling Hiss have always had the ability to unleash the kind of song that stops you in your tracks (Everybody in the USA), and they do it again right here.   

No Age: People Helping People

They keep up the momentum with Shining Gilded Boulevard. Even the title smacks of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and while the riffs haven’t been pilfered from the vaults, Shining Gilded Boulevard howls with the kind of spit and crackle barnyard frenzy that pulsates the senses, ending this album with the sheer raucous behaviour Purling Hiss are famous for.

For those who cut new music out of their lives by the time they reached 40, the downside to that is missing out on bands like Purling Hiss and records like Drag on Girard. While very much a Purling Hiss record, the greatest thing about this band is that we all need them in our lives at some point, if nothing more than to blow out the cobwebs and fucking live a little.

The same can be said of Birds of Maya and, more recently, The Men. Bands that are slaves to the riff and hold one concern: playing music for the sheer love of it and nothing else. If only there were more bands who held this approach, however that’s exactly why we should be thankful for a band like Purling Hiss and record like Drag on Girard. You will be hard-pressed to find a better homage to rock music all year.

Drag on Girard is out now via Drag City. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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