Album Review: The Polymorphines – Transistor Sistor

January 30, 2010

The Polymorphines - Transistor Sistor cover art.Title: Transistor Sistor
Artist: The Polymorphines
Label: Get Bent Records
Released: February 2010
In one word: Middling

First off, props to The Polymorphines for the most original CD packaging I’ve seen in a while – they’ve gone for the card-style casing, and it all looks very organic and, uh, biodegradable. Cool.

Alright, so it’s not the best thing when a review of a new band starts by talking about the CD packaging, especially when I using a word that means disposable – but hold fire, I’m not going to suggest this group from Ottawa, Ontario should be immediately dismissed as a throwaway band.

The first track “Let Love Fly” flies by at quite a pace and introduces the blues-soaked garage rock sound that can be heard throughout Transistor Sistor. It’s a solid opener but nothing that’s gonna blow you away… it just doesn’t really hit home and to me that’s the issue with most of what you’ll hear on this album, this despite the cries on “Main Street Jimmy”  that ‘this shits gonna blow your brains little girl, blow your brains’.  Sure, there’s definitely energy and passion behind it, but the overall sound is so middling that it never succeeds in peaking my attention above that of lukewarm interest.

I can’t help but think of Jet when I listen to this music, or a better sonic comparison would be their Kiwi neighbours The Datsuns. In 2002 I got an export copy of The Datsuns first single “Supergyration” after hearing it on John Peel’s show, and I loved that one track enough to live in a Datsuns t-shirt for the best part of a year. Their debut album never quite managed to capture the same level of ass-kicking intensity of that first 7” cut, but at their grimiest and most raucous The Datsuns music is great stuff, and in a few fleeting moments (“Bring Your Love Back Home”, “Constant Reminder”) The Polymorphines are reminiscent of that same kind of rock n’ roll dirt.

The bluesiest guitar bits (“The Black Sky” ) are pretty cool, while the frequent use of a mouth organ throughout the record bulks up the blues factor further. Yet while the blues edge of the music brings something to the sound dynamic it fails to add any real soul and life to the music in the way that ’60’s blues pioneers like Canned Heat made synonymous with the genre. An example is “Dirty Cop” which just falls flat, and the following track “Goodbye Kiss”, which despite more of that cool guitar grime, falls short of achieving the moody vibe you can hear its gunning for and the generic lyrics don’t help in what levels out at middle-of-the-road rock and roll.

There might be a bit more to The Polymorphines than this record reveals; chances are that in a live setting they’d be able to make a better impact. You can hear a lot of sweat and elbow grease behind Transistor Sistor but that energy disperses without reaching any level of intensity, and ultimately lacks a cutting edge.

© Brian Banks

Related links:
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Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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