Rock has no shortage of overlooked guitar geniuses, but few are as awesome yet as ignored as Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski of Polvo. The band’s 1992 debut, Cor-Crane Secret, set a standard for post-Sonic Youth art-rock that few bands (outside of Polvo itself) could top. While Polvo’s songs were never as bombastic or anthemic as Sonic Youth’s, the band managed to squeeze out four incredible albums of twisty, discordant beauty before folding toward the end of the ’90s.
In Prism is the first record by the recently reunited group, and it’s as if the last 12 years never happened. Sporting geometrically interlocked riffs and solos that feel simultaneously epic and oblique, the disc harnesses post-punk cool as well as classic-rock heroism, most effectively on the choppy, monstrously catchy “Beggar’s Bowl.” As usual, the group’s low-in-the-mix vocals sound mostly like afterthoughts—which is probably how it should be, since Polvo’s guitars have always been the frontmen. In spite of that weakness—and some misplaced dynamics, and a couple of unremarkable jams that overstay their welcome—In Prism is a comeback nearly on par with Sonic Youth’s masterful The Eternal. And if the world at large continues to ignore Bowie and Brylawski’s ambitious six-string alchemy, well, that’s the world’s loss.