The dark, foreboding undertones within Poliça’s music have always managed to maintain a bit of hopefulness at their unsettled core. On their textured third album, United Crushers, the Minneapolis quartet does away with any saccharine optimism in favor of an incisive collection filled with defiant, modern day anthems of dissent.
While many of Channy Leaneagh’s vocals remain shrouded elusively behind a veil of miscomprehension, the agitation and dissatisfaction at the restless heart of these propulsive numbers ultimately shine through. The group’s sturdy rhythm section – drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu, and bassist Chris Beirden – fashion roiling, innovative grooves that lock in with producer Ryan Olson’s (Gayngs/Marijuana Deathsquads) sonic flourishes, and give added weight to Leaneagh’s penetrating lyrics.
“Whatchya wanna be when you’re big enough to see it’s all shit?” asks the heavily processed voice heard at the start of the record. And United Crushers indeed sets out to illuminate the many ways that the world has fractured, and what we can possibly do to counteract modern society’s undignified fall from grace. That delicate balance is layered throughout the album, giving the songs a dynamic tension that is never fully resolved, with easy answers done away with in favor of heady social realism.
That same tenuous dichotomy is front and center in the simmering lead-off track ‘Summer Please,’ which counters the desperate longing for the frigid winter months to be over with the anger and fear experienced when senseless violence erupts as the city streets heat up. Do we let the ills of the outside world cause us to shut down and stay in because, “I’ve got mine/I’ll be fine,” or do we interact with our surroundings while trying to better our society as we struggle to define our place within it?
First single "Lime Habit" is a pulsating, electro-soul jam, with Leaneagh’s sincere confessional – about stepping out from the shadows and forging her own luck – rising assertively above the swirling rhythms and sonic layers that drive the song forward. Her vocals aren’t nearly as processed as they have been over the band’s previous two albums, though Leaneagh’s voice still serves as another textured, inscrutable instrument within Poliça's roiling din rather than providing easily intelligible narration.
The group also collectively wrote and recorded these songs in the same room together – mixed on tape as opposed to digital – giving the material a natural, unified dynamic that carries throughout the entire album. That approach lends a collaborative, intimate warmth to the underlying menace of "Wedding", which questions our leaders’ – both political and religious – ability to quell the unchecked abuse of power, and the anti-celebrity screed "Melting Block", with its confrontational kiss-off to the trappings of the music industry, “When you pull your corset tighter, fighter / How you gonna suck off fame?”
Leaneagh also openly examines the perils and ecstasy of modern relationships throughout the record, as "Top Coat", "Lately", and the unguarded closer "Lose You" all delve deeply into the intense pain and pleasure associated with offering your heart to someone. “Seems like we’re too comfortable in love / If it’s good it’s gonna stay / It’s gonna be my only way,” Leaneagh contemplates within the dreamy R&B pulse of “Lately.” Sometimes figuring out what you don’t want – or can’t put up with – is just as important as finding someone or something you desire. “I wanna wake up wanting your touch / You don’t want it to last / Push me off and watch it crash / What’s to lose, what’s to lose / Just you,” Channy laments on ‘Lose You", which not only brings the album to a graceful, if unsettled conclusion, but also sums up the raw emotions that course throughout the entire record.
In a world that has been broken apart by war, aggression, abuse and hatred, turning to lovers, friends, and family is sometimes the only way to keep the darkness at bay. But even those people can let us down from time to time. So, we’re ultimately left with only our true selves to make something pure out of our experience, before the United Crushers of the world come for us all. And Poliça's bold new record serves as a clarion call to all of us who are fighting bravely for the cause, be it art, love, or rebellion.