It might be too soon to declare In Prism the best Polvo record ever...but it might be okay by the time you're done reading this.
It's de rigueur to ask the question, Why now? What makes a band decide to get back together for a few shows ten years later, and then for a few more? Well, I don't know because I didn't ask them, because the reasons don't matter, only the results. Isn't it pretty much always the same stuff anyway? "Because we could, because we thought it'd be fun, because we got asked."
What I do know, and what every old fan will quickly realize seconds into In Prism's opener, "Right the Relation"--which is so much more "Polvo" than Polvo was -- is that they would not have made this record a year after 1997's Shapes, their last album. Nor would they have two years later, or five. Not they couldn't have; they just wouldn't have. Only at this point in life would they be so assured, so casually stormy and intensely calm, graceful and free with their power -- only as guys their age, grown-ups who grew up without growing up, without setting aside anything that made them the rock artists they were during their first, unblemished run. There is not a thing on In Prism that they aren't doing better than before: the sidewinder guitars and the mighty roar and the moody atmospheres and the psychedelic explosiveness; the writing, the singing, the words you can understand, the ones you can't.
Polvo spent 1990-98 giving voice to a chorus of discrete rock & roll ideas that really hadn't been heard before. On In Prism, those ideas come together like overlaid transparencies, many planes phasing into a cool new geometry, the parts visible but inseparable. And while there was nothing wrong before, it's now so much more right--perhaps because after ten years, after other bands (Ash: Helium, Libraness; Dave: Idyll Swords and, with Steve, Black Taj; newest drummer named Brian: The Cherry Valence) and their tours and records and worries (if they had any), none of the peripheral stuff matters anymore. You just get to a place in life where a whole set of crap that might've once kept you up at night no longer means a thing. The lunchbox genrefications burped up by people who flunked algebra, any perceptions of competing with other groups for anything, what the band will do next or the label they're on or might want to be on (though we can all agree that it's cool to see Polvo back on Merge) -- that stuff's for less experienced bands, if they want it. Now is for Polvo, and Polvo is for now.
In Prism is the best Polvo record even before you get to the majestic "A Link in the Chain," serene and tempestuous like few other things you'll hear. The album was recorded with Brian Paulson and Polvo has never sounded better. Don't you agree?
-- Mike Wolf, NYC, 6/09