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Published: 2012/11/07
by Brian Robbins

The Pollies
Where The Lies Begin

This Is American Music

The first few seconds of “Good For Nothing” – the opening track on The Pollies’ debut album Where The Lies Begin – nail the essence of this band’s sound. Male voices united in lovely harmony glide through a series of notes that offer both major and minor-flavored emotions (a little Beach Boys; a little Megafaun). A long-held note morphs from sweet throats to overdriven tubes – and a blast of lusciously nasty feedback plows its way into the forefront, arm-in-arm with a pounding bass drum (and a broad stroke down the strings of an acoustic guitar).

Welcome to the world of The Pollies – where the fenders of beauty are rusted out and the muffler fell off a while back, but oh , sweet Jesus … what a ride.

The Pollies’ music is rooted in that same sort of heart-on-a-raggedy-sleeve vibe that made The Waterboys such masters of sweet ache back in the day. (Listen to tunes such as “Song For Carter” or the powerful acoustic narration of “Madgelene”: lead man Jay Burgess in particular shares Waterboy Mike Scott’s style of lay-it-out-there vocals – in terms of depth, rather than volume.) Transplant those lads from Galway to Muscle Shoals, crank the amps up, and you’d have The Pollies.

The band itself is a cool mix of multi-talents: besides vocals, Burgess contributes guitars of various sorts; so does Daniel Stoddard, who also infuses some pedal steel shimmer throughout the album; Chris James’ bass work spans the gamut from pine board funk to workboot stomp (and he plays a sweet mandolin, as well); and Ben Tanner’s keys provide both sonic backdrops and textured riffs. The Pollies’ lineup since the sessions for Where The Lies Begin now includes Matt Green on lead guitar – Browan Lollar was a guest picker on the album – and Reed Watson on drums. (Jon Davis was the drummer on the album.)

No sooner has the mind-warping opener “Good For Nothing” moaned and wailed its way off in to the shadows than the power pop of “Something New” descends, flashing its Summerteeth –like smile as it sets its hook. “Joe” is a slow-dancing plea to a friend; “Rebel Man” is two-and-a-half-minutes of perfection that a young Springsteen could’ve written (dig the sweet cheese of Tanner keys).

“Little Birdie”, with its infectious chorus of “I’m gonna find my way back to my home” comes barrel-assing out of the speakers like a third-set Uncle Tupelo in full romp mode; the way-cool, just-right horns of Doc Dailey, Jeremy Woods, and Danley Murner are the perfect guests to add punch to the soul-filled “The Well” and pain to the haunting “Things You Learned To Know”; and the first twelve seconds’ worth of drums alone on “Ashes Of Burned Out Stars” will make the hairs stand up on your arms while instantly chilling you to the core of your bones. (Hang on for the epic jam at the end – a tumbling waterfall of bass and drums roaring beneath a thickly-woven churn of guitar and keys, topped by soaring pedal steel.)

It’s easy to forget that Where The Lies Begin is a debut album; bands don’t often find this sort of depth and maturity right out of the starting gate (right down to handling the production and recording of the album themselves – with Centro-matic’s Matt Pence doing the mastering).

I’m telling you right now: pay attention to The Pollies.

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