Polak – Swan Songs

Album Review by Mark Bayross

This is the debut album from Pete and Krzys Fijalkowski, formerly of Adorable and The Bardots, respectively and the brothers whose parentage gives the band its name. Recorded allegedly between the hours of 10pm and 10am, the mood succeeds in conveying a late-night vibe, even if it rocks out big-time in places.

From the delicate acoustic ambience of minute-long opener, LAST THING, to the explosive guitars that cut through the middle of TRACER, Polak display an ability to deliver a sharp and effective pop punch. However, an over-reliance on swathes of guitars and organ robs the album of anything really memorable.

Pete’s voice spans a pretty wide spectrum: on STORM COMING he sounds like Babybird’s Stephen Jones, while on NOBODY’S COWBOY SONG, he sounds not unlike Jim Morrison. The band create a musical environment around him that further emphasises this affectation: check out the hammond organ on NOBODY’S COWBOY SONG to take you right back to The Doors, while it’s hard not to listen to STORM COMING without thinking of “YOU’RE GORGEOUS.

The themes tread a pessimistic path through last year’s Verve-like top 10 indie single IMPOSSIBLE (“Self pity and a broken heart / Well that’s a broken cocktail”) to lamentations on the passing of time (“I’m beginning to like country music / They say that’s the first sign of age”) (NOBODY’S COWBOY SONG).

As the album spirals towards a downbeat finale that takes in the Beautiful South-like end-of-relationship duet LOVE ION REVERSE and more Doors-isms with SHIPWRECKED, it finishes with the impossibly morose HANG UP, where pretty guitar and piano is all but flattened by Pete’s whining, and a reprise of the opening LAST THING.

I would like to have enjoyed this album a lot more – there are some effective moments, but the derivative nature of the music and the relentless miserablism doesn’t help matters much. There’s no catharsis, no pay-off at the end. Admittedly Radiohead have made a career out of the very same emotional wrangling, but they have been more inventive and skilful in their execution. Still, this is Polak’s first album, so we’ll have to wait and see what comes next.

4 stars

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