United Crusher’s power comes from its moments, not its unified presence.
“Brim, brim / When we lose they win / Saying hands up / The bullets in,” sings Channy Leaneagh in “Wedding,” her tone shielding its playful nature with a paper shield. What’s traditionally an Us versus Them scenario reforms itself as something unconfident, where brilliant stands against the police—which Minnesota-based Poliça have their sharp eyes on—are met with sighs. The band is upset that the carnage won’t stop, prompting the electronic group to release the music video for “Wedding” with a “Sesame Street”-esque aesthetic that settles to strike down police figures to settle nightmares of brutality.
What introduces itself as an attitude toward social issues tries to become a force that unites the group’s sound through refining it like a political weapon. The depth and breadth of such a weapon is not fully realized in United Crushers, the band’s third album, a piece that doesn’t reach the electronic greatness that comprised their Give You the Ghost or even sophomore Shulamith. Thankfully, Poliça don’t tout themselves as the heroes needed to take on social issues—because their honest-to-goodness showings of love are consistent demonstrations of how brilliant the night can be.
If there’s one thing that Leaneagh excels at, it’s pitching a voice that sounds like the night—not only a figment of it, but the long parts where the full moon glows on sullen streets. One shouldn’t forget the element of bass. When it pops up after intervals of absence, it’s easily endearing, to the point that the performer (whether live bassist Chris Bierden or album production) could integrate more jazzy riffs to attach stars to the moony nights. Drums slither in and out with a precision that feels fused with the bass, opting for a near-symbiotic connection where life becomes bred by tempo and grace.
Such grace finds its balance in the field of R&B and trip-hop sensibilities, genres that realize the perpetually chaotic nature of the night in slow doses. United Crushers, for one, isn’t a record to dance to—at least, easily—its darkness is the kind you improvise your movements to in the middle of the night. The image of Christine and the Queens comes to mind in this sense because Leaneagh revels in this darkness when she wants her music to find the pleasant nature of sporadicism. Intro track “Summer Please,” with a starting bit of tropical electronics akin to Ratatat’s “Supreme,” shows this R&B piece’s vocal warps and muffled levels that quickly make way for a pristine vocal performance. “Fish on the Griddle” has a heavy trip-hop vibe to it that manages to find the best from a Daughter track and merge it with a particular slowness Poliça could offer. The cold “Berlin” makes for a song without easy slips of black or white in its drum-and-bass focused menace. This instrumentation is easily Poliça’s strength when electronics can, at times, fly past the listener.
Despite this flaw of non-phazing synth bits, the band’s attitude is what becomes noticeable. “Wedding” makes itself into a tune that appeals to a spy-on-spy electronic melody, fronted by lines that reference cocaine, paying bail and gunfire. “Lately” comes across as a song with romanticism to it, demonstrated by a synth beat that conjures images of minute chemical reactions, and the lovesick tone of Leaneagh. She plays it lyrically safe with lines like “If it’s good/ It’s gonna stay,” although there’s a genuine weight of love to this admission that can’t be ignored. “Baby Sucks” can’t be forgotten either. It’s a song that reflects as an answer to “I Need $” from Shulamith. The brass that introduces itself into the fray signifies a fame that goes close to the track’s mention of Bugattis and dying dreams. The instrumentation is hot and heavy, ready to introduce blissful strings and brass in “Kind.” While the band’s climb up the mountain of social issues has relatively finished by this point, the sphere of the relationship still becomes contentious, and thus, easily digestible love songs that don’t demand what you should feel post-listen continue (“Lose You”).
United Crusher‘s power comes from its moments, not its unified presence. “Lime Habit” features a syncopated bass line that graces alongside keys that effortlessly hit the right notes as if without a clue what the hand is doing. “Someway” has the sense that its poppy electronics came straight from a Chairlift tune, while its instrumental rhythm takes inspiration from the Police. It’s, perhaps, the closest thing to a great dance track that the album offers. And “Top Coat” is important in how it signifies the weight of instrumentation. Yes, adept production created such a record, but it’ll be interesting to see how the live band grapples with the soundscape. Would the bass and drums tear the vocals away? With three albums out, Poliça feel fit to say no, the band is fine as is. It would be better for a next record to unify its ground so moments feel less spread apart and more hard-hitting. That said, I’d gladly pay Poliça’s bail, should their interactions with the police go awry.