The thick fuzz, feedback and endlessly shredding guitar of Philadelphia's Purling Hiss shine with just a bit of studio polish on the band's Drag City debut.
Not only does Purling Hiss play in-your-face, wrapped-around-your-head, funneled-into-your-ears and jammed-down-your-throat rock 'n' roll perfect for cranking loud enough to leave the rest of the world behind, but with nine songs of assured and electrifying rock, Water on Mars is catchy as hell too.
Guitarist-singer Mike Polizze, joined by drummer Mike Sneeringer and bassist Kiel Everett, are musical, if not exactly generational, peers of Dinosaur Jr. and Mudhoney, blending heavy jams with sharp songcrafting.
The opening one-two punch of thrashing "Lolita" and the head-bobbing "Mercury Retrograde" encapsulate the band's deft progress since 2010's Public Service Announcement: It feels good to get crushed like this.
Next up is "Rat Race," easily the slacker anthem for 2013, with its "Everybody wants to have a good time" chorus making repeat listens inevitable.
Unsurprisingly, "She Calms Me Down" takes things to a mellower place, but even when the song pairs acoustic and electric guitars, it remains in a heady, psychedelic place. "Dead Again" could have come from a Meat Puppets campfire jam. "Water on Mars" is a swirling epic, seven minutes of stomping and a spacey guitar wail that sounds like transmissions from beyond this planet.
Without leaving the force of its lo-fi roots behind, Purling Hiss have turned up the melodic magnetism on Water on Mars. Quite a discovery, indeed.