Poliça: United Crushers

The dance-rock stars aim for something harder hitting, but does it hit the mark?

- United Crushers is the third album from US synth indie band Poliça and, in something of a disappointment, it doesn’t quite pick up where the band left off last time. As with previous records this album is built around synthesisers and percussion, though with this iteration they've condensed their sound and reigned in some of the more sprawling elements of earlier releases. Thematically it also takes a turn, with a noticeable political streak woven throughout the lyrics. United Crushers is an album of complex arrangements that capture elements of pop, electro and house music and ties them together with ethereal vocals from front woman Channy Leaneagh. Blending the personal with the political, her lyrics explore social injustice, urban decline, gentrification and isolation. This ambitious attempt at conveying viewpoints on such a wide variety of issues works well in some places and less so in others. There’s a lack of clarity throughout which diffuses the impact of any insight we’re supposed to glean.

Opener Summer Please is a trippy track that builds upon a solid dance beat, becoming more complex as the song progresses, though it’s a weird name for a track that feels much darker than light. It’s not until Lime Habit that we catch a glimpse of a brighter side to Poliça. Leaneagh’s voice emerges triumphant from the melting pot of lighter house music and layers of synths. There’s an interesting tension between the minimalism of her vocals and the big production given to most of the beats on this record. Wedding is a dramatic song, with real grit at its heart, despite the healthy dose of dance swagger layered over the top. Melting Block is a hypnotic dance track that makes good use of the stop-start effect as a hook, while lyrically it considers the idea that you could melt yourself down and manifest as something altogether new. If only there were more tracks like these on the rest of the record. Too often it feels as though the music was treated separately to the lyrics and this disconnect becomes more prominent as the record progresses. Its bottom half simply run out of steam, too, the ideas start to feel a little stale and there’s nothing new to really pique your interest after a while. The minimalist vocals feel completely swamped by the production and subsequently the lyrics come across as underwhelming and lost: not at all the powerful analysis of political issues we’re promised. Top Coat is probably a lone standout at this point in the record: with vast synth-scapes and atmospheric percussion, it’s the only track that really manages to differentiate itself from the repeated patterns of songs like Berlin and Baby Sucks. The final song Lose You starts to turn the album around, bringing some much needed clarity to the record, though it’s too little too late by then.

Poliça are a talented dance-rock band, and Leaneagh’s vocal prowess shouldn’t be overlooked, it’s just a shame that with United Crushers the band haven’t been able to successfully marry their two biggest assets. As a dance record, there’s certainly plenty of cannon fodder for any club DJ, so long as they don’t play too many of the songs in a row. Hopefully next time Poliça will be able to find more clarity of intention before embarking on a record that hasn’t quite figured out what it is yet. 

- Clare Armstrong.

 

Album Details

Album Title: United Crushers
Artist: Poliça
Record Label: (Pod / Inertia)