REVIEW: Hollie Pollock, “You’re All Wrong” EP

Hollie Pollock EP cover

TL;DR PULL QUOTE: Crazy Horse by way of Nirvana, “You’re All Wrong” is a depthful EP that delivers the kind of sophisticated musicianship that’s been lacking in the Portland music scene for far too long.

See, I have a confession. Right now, all the music I like the most comes from Nashville’s indie scene. The Protomen. Cheer Up Charlie Daniels. The Ascent of Everest. The Non-Commissioned Officers. Makeup and Vanity Set. Magic Hammer.

It is completely embarrassing to me that Portland, my home town, a city with a supposed reputation of being this hotspot for great local bands, hasn’t been able to keep up. To me, the Portland music scene has felt really stale for a long time; self-congratulatory, closed-off and half-baked, too many “two guys, one amp”, lacking in the kind of bone-rattling thunder and complexity that rolls so easily out of Nashville; is it the weather? Is it something in the water? Is it that we’re trying to be too damn nice? What we’ve been lacking, Hollie Pollock finally delivers.

I discovered this band through the most boring and pretentious awards show I’ve ever had the misfortune of burning an hour and a half of my life on. It was a Saturday night, I was bored out of my skull, and this show came on cable: the Portland Music Awards. I was like “Great, here’s an opportunity to check out the local scene and maybe find something good.” Unfortunately, the Portland Music Awards have been roundly mocked and panned by local media outlets and with good reason; it was self-congratulatory, a closed-circlejerk of friends congratulating themselves on their brilliance and reading terrible, terrible ‘jokes’ only they understood. I sat there fast forwarding through the boring speeches and ludicrous insert videos and stopping on the band performances, hoping against hope: Give me something I can feel.

Just when I was about to give up hope, this band appeared under the Best Rock category (or something). The thunder was rolling out of the instruments. The intensity was palpable. The sound was alive. And they were singing. Give us something we can feel. Give us something that we know is real. Give us something we can love.

Well, it was love at first hearing. I sat up and damn near cheered. Yes. Finally.

One quick jaunt to the internet later, I found their website. There were tons of sample tracks up that stung my heart with savage glee one after the next; where had they come from and why hadn’t I heard a damn thing about them before now?

I made it out to one of their shows last night, finally. They pulled off a great show, with Robert Harris standing up at the drums and beating the crap out of them (he’s now my second favorite show-stealing percussionist after The Protomen’s Reanimator Lovejoy) and lead vocalist Justin Miller leading three ferocious guitars through a crisp set that sounded for all the world like the second coming of Neil Young – if Neil Young had taken a roadtrip up to Washington and restarted Nirvana.

Formerly known as Sister Ray, the Salem-based group has recorded a couple of EPs and one full-length release, “Electric Water”. They’re currently working on their second album.

The EP features five tracks: “You’re All Wrong”, “Don’t Come Around”, “White Keys”, “Give Us Something To Feel”, and “13th Sun”.  Of these, “You’re All Wrong” and “Give Us Something” are the standouts, instantly hooky with evocative vocals and searing riffs, while “13th Sun” has great guitar work but has muddied, indistinct vocals. “White Keys” brings in smooth-sounding acoustic guitars reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s big hit “Wicked Game” and dreamy lyrics to match.

The EP’s production by Jared Knowland is clean, strong and depthful, glorious to listen to in headphones, even if it doesn’t quite capture the power of their live performances; Hollie Pollock is best experienced live.

Fortunately for Portlanders, they play here pretty often. Ironically, their next local gig takes place on the very same day that I’m off to Nashville to see The Protomen do their one-night Queen cover set. Damn.

Check out Hollie Pollock’s website and extensive sample tracks here. (EDIT: their main website appears to be down as of 12/2/10. Try their Myspace or Facebook pages instead.)

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One Comment

  1. Wow! Finally a music reviewer who “gets it!” I’ve been a Holly Pollock fan for about 6 months now and your review nails it! They have such energy and a fresh approach to music. Justin is an amazing singer/songwriter as well as a very good guitarist.
    His lyrics have depth and are at once romantic and gripping. Ben Bond is a rare guitarist who understands what most older rock heroes learned along the way, but he understands it early in his career: “Less is more.” Ben is a master of understated leads, fills and riffs. His stage presence and energy is phenomenol. Robert Harris, is one amazing drummer. Impeccable timing, with groovzilla beats and flamboyant style, Robert Harris, the Holly Pollock drummer is just nuts on drums…in a good way! He is so entertaining, without drawing attention all to himself. When he does an occasional drum solo hang on to your paradittle, because you can’t but watch and stare at his stagemanship. If Robert were in England in the ’60’s, he without question could have been a contender as drummer for The Who. He shares so much of what made Keith Moon a standout drummer. Their new bass player is doing a good job laying it down deep and keeping a dynamic groove foundation for the guitarists to layer their harmonic riffs.
    Holly Pollock is a fresh band with fresh material and nowhere to go but up. Highly recommended!

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