Paste (magazine) - "For all its polish, Water on Mars retains a sense of spontaneity, with a handful of soft, folky tunes like 'Dead Again' and 'She Calms Me Down'..."
Personnel: Mike Polizze (vocals, guitar); Mike Sneeringer (drums).
Recording information: Uniform Recording, Philadelphia, PA (2012).
Photographer: Tiffany Yoon.
Philly power trio Purling Hiss are based around the prolific songwriting of the multi-talented Mike Polizze, who grew the project from a time-killing basement recording unit to the real-deal band they've become on Water on Mars. The album raises production values without losing any of the group's corrosive charm, and the nine songs speed by, silently tipping their hat to a number of '90s alternative rock stars while delivering Polizze's unique take on fuzz-heavy rock songcraft. While Purling Hiss share a label and some sonic similarities with Ty Segall (papercut guitar tones, sidetracks into psychedelia, tuneful noise) and often get lumped in with the 2010s' indie garage scene, the vibe on Water on Mars is way more basement than garage. Songs like "The Harrowing Wind" and "Rat Race" have just enough slacker melancholia to take them out of the realm of abandon and nihilism that often plays out in garage circles, recalling more of the introspective, reluctant rocking of the Replacements in their later days or It's a Shame About Ray-era Lemonheads, just with way more fuzz guitar. Album opener "Lolita" perfectly channels Nirvana, with Polizze shouting lyrics in a gnarled Kurt Cobain howl that comes a little too close to the original artifact when coupled with Bleachy guitar tones and raw drums. The album hops colorfully between heavy grunge pop numbers, melodic power pop like "Mercury Retrograde," and more subdued acoustic psych moments like the Syd Barrett/White Fence-like "She Calms Me Down." We're even treated to a seven-minute wah-wah jam on the title track before the album wraps up with the soft-hearted "Mary Bumble Bee." The songs ping-pong between styles, but there's not a bad one in the bunch, and even in their diverse range of styles they manage to maintain a unified feel. Water on Mars is unexpectedly hooky, taking just enough from the catchy '90s alterna-pop it borrows from to root the songs in the listener's mind, but offering enough of Polizze's own voice to keep it from being a mere throwback. ~ Fred Thomas