Reviews

Poliça
United Crushers

(Memphis Industries)

8/10

When Poliça arrived in 2012, they did so via a soothsaying blog post from Jay Z (so much for ‘death of auto-tune’) and an over-excited endorsement from Justin Vernon, who’d just been validated himself by the Grammys. It’s easy to see why the music was always mentioned second. It was a brief time, though, and soon enough Poliça’s ‘Give You The Ghost’ LP was revered not for who told you about it but for its genuinely inventive take on modern RnB. Combining elements of trip-hop and dub with love-bruised robo vocals, an Aaliyah obsession and cloudy beats for late nights abandoned by love, Poliça’s melancholia didn’t just sound like nobody else, it felt unique, too – an impressive trick that they’re still pulling off two albums later.

Part of that early appeal was down to the group’s origins, though – the romance of accidence, and how ‘Give You The Ghost’ was an album of Ryan Olson’s leftover hip-hop instrumentals, over which fellow ex-Gayngs member Channy Leaneagh lay sweetly gargling confessionals that bubbled on the strange half notes produced by a purposefully extreme amount of auto-tune. Follow up album ‘Shulamith’ was in turn cleaner, more planned, and the magic of a group ‘making-do’ was noticeably absent. In isolation it was more than a fine record, but next to ‘Give You The Ghost’ it was looking like Poliça’s silent weapon (serendipity) was naturally impossible to ever recreate. ‘United Crushers’ is here to debunk the notion that Poliça are doomed by their own experience with the simplest of tools – better songs.

Leaneagh’s switched up a couple of things here. Most notable is how much she’s dialled back the vocal effects, save for on the first half of the opening ‘Summer Please’, where she’s dropped a few octaves to make herself sound like a deep-voiced man. It’s a red herring for what follows, although even though there’s only a touch of auto-tune on ‘United Crushers’, it’s kinda beside the point – as before, her lyrics are somewhat abstract in their repetition, and Leaneagh sings as if pulling back the ends of words to make a lot of phrases even more difficult to decipher. More than ever it’s worth cocking an ear, though, as ‘United Crushers’ not only laments relationships gone wrong once again but also guns for social injustice, war, celebrity and what it’s like to live in trigger-happy, modern America.

This is a record that opens with the line “Whatchya wanna be when you’re big enough to see it’s all shit?” and later adds to the rhetoric on ‘Melting Pot’ with “How you gonna suck off fame while you pull your corset tighter?” A little further down the line, on ‘Fish’, Leaneagh is more familiarly vulnerable when confessing to not being as strong as she may appear on stage, and tracks like the funky ‘Baby Sucks’ and the closing ‘Lose You’ are more in Poliça’s heartbroken mould of old.

But yes, you do need to really listen to pick up just how pissed the lyrics of ‘Wedding’ are (it’s about police brutality), but victorious, also – joyous even. That’s what Ryan Olson has always balanced so well throughout this project – producing a deep, dubby backdrop that fills in the gaps in Leaneagh’s clarity, meaning you can feel the theatrical weight of ‘United Crushers’’s themes even if you can’t out and out hear them.

Support Loud And Quiet from £3 per month and we'll post you our next 9 magazines

As all of us are constantly reminded, it’s getting harder for independent publishers to stay in business, which applies to Loud And Quiet more now than ever, 14 years after we first started printing a magazine that we’ve always given away for free.

Having thought about the best way to support our running costs (the printing and distribution fees, the podcast and production costs etc.) we’d like to ask our readers who really enjoy what we do to subscribe to our next 9 issues over the next 12 months. The cheapest we can afford to do this for works out at £3 per month for UK subscribers, charged yearly.

If that seems like a bit of a punt, you can pay-as-you-go for £4 per month and cancel any time you like. European and world plans are available too, at the lowest rate we can afford.

It’s not just a donation – you’ll receive a physical copy of our magazine through your door and some extra perks detailed on our subscribe page. Digital subscriptions are available worldwide for £15 per year. We hope you consider this a good deal and the best way to keep Loud And Quiet in your life without its content, independence or existence suffering.