Thing of the week:
By Ian Grant
Pressure Point, Brighton
Upstairs at the Richmond in Brighton. It's called "Pressure Point" now, in the way that things
generally are (they've painted the walls and the drinks are more expensive), but it's
still upstairs at the Richmond at heart. Not the most likely setting for pop miracles but
pop is as pop does and Polak discard miracles aplenty tonight.
14 December 1998
A bit of history first. We're back to the Bardots again, I'm afraid. Oh yes. A band that dared
to walk all the great tightropes - between sneering snobbery and sweeping romanticism, introversion
and arrogance, pretentious self-indulgence and a knack of knocking out three minute masterpieces. Special, a
very personal treasure. You've never heard of them and it's your loss.
Polak are born of the same aesthetic. Unsurprising, since head Bardots Simon Dunford and
Krzys Fijalkowski are involved, but no less heart-bursting for that. Add in Krzys' brother, flamboyant
Piotr of Adorable infamy, and it's a helluva line-up. Half a dozen pirouetting chords
into the evening's entertainment and I've forgotten that obscure principle about hating guitar bands. There
were moments, watching indie-cred stodge clogging up Top Of The Pops, when I prayed
No throwback. Faced with a tricky home fixture, Polak risk their youth team. Of the
six tracks committed to plastic, they play just one - and even that, the lovely scrawl of the
second single, is already being toyed with mischievously. The rest is all unfamiliar, glimpses
of the future and dreams of how head-over-heels that third Bardots LP would've sent me.
Tumultuous is a word. (So is "pretentious" - Ed.) It's not supposed to be this easy, soaring pop songs aren't
supposed to be thrown away with quite such carelessness. If you play upstairs at the
Richmond, you're not supposed to write songs that sound like "The Power Of Love" by Frankie
Goes To Hollywood (or perhaps that was my imagination), you're not supposed to be
quite so obviously impatient for glory. But this lot have paid their dues, done their
apprenticeships, they don't need to have doubts.
So most of this is just a joyous, celebratory blur. Piotr peddles his dreams like they
can't wait for tomorrow, amid all the exuberance of reformed failure junkies. A slight
over-reliance on Big Finishes aside, they sound so f***ing glorious, so in love with pop
and all its endless, brash, stupid, foolhardy possibilities.
God willing, Polak will make an album and the rest of 1999 will wince....
We arrive late, they've already started.
27 March 1999
With any other band worth caring about, this would be a serious irritation. But this
is Polak and Polak are a pop band, slamming you in the face with so many vital moments
that there's nothing to think about but now, no reason to regret what's passed.
So I pile through the door into a crammed back room, three soon-to-be converts in tow. And
it takes mere seconds for a crashing version of "Storm Coming" to sweep us right
off our feet. No explanation necessary, no argument possible.
More follows, and it is magnificent. "I'm Sick" is absolutely ravishing; imminent
single "Impossible" lifts the spirits like springtime; "Get Out Of My Sky" gets changed
to refer back to the afternoon's football match ("That second goal was a handball / You English
are CHEATS!"). They take their eyes off the ball occasionally, sometimes letting a
little effort show through towards a mildly anti-climactic end, but that's always the way when you're four-nil
up at half-time.
A pop band, ladies and gentlemen. The most uncomplicated, and elusive, of pleasures.