It has taken, in essence, ten years to make this release reality. Emma DeCorsey first conceived of her band, I Am the Polish Army, during her years as a college student and worked hard over the intervening years at hammering out a clear, comprehensive vision for the band’s presentation and sound. Her recent acquaintance with bassist Turner Stough and drummer Eric Kuby proved to be the final turning point in making the band’s debut possible. The eight songs on My Old Man are deeply felt, bracingly presented, and charged by DeCorsey’s emotive presence at the center of it all. She’s labored alongside her collaborators to offer up a familiar, yet wholly individual, take on the rock music form informed by the turns of her personal history and the mountains she scaled to realize her musical ambitions. The guitars are powerful, the vocals evocative, and the songwriting resolutely focused on self-expression and communication alike.
The short, to-the-point opening for My Old Man, “You Don’t Know”, draws on personal experience for the album’s first musical salvo. It has a good build, beginning with considerable restraint, and the band is in full flight by the song’s conclusion. DeCorsey’s voice will hold your attention – it is an effective blend of a conversational style with phrasing attempting to embody the song’s experience without ever slipping into histrionics. “Dead Bowie” may be the album’s single most memorable moment thanks to the withering songwriting eye the band casts on the boatloads of imitators and glad-handers who follow in the wake of a legend’s passing without demonstrating any true understanding of their work. One of the album’s hardest rocking moments comes with the track “Throat” and I Am the Polish Army’s rambunctious approach has a lot of grit and brio while only rarely backing off the listener. There’s a claustrophobic feel to this song, like the singer is locked in close with dark fears they’ve chosen to live with once again for cathartic and artistic purposes alike.
The martial stomp of “Dead Cat” and recurring guitar riff make this an irresistible cut from the outset. There’s a consistently great contrast between the emotive, even sensitive, qualities of DeCorsey’s singing and her gritty guitar sound that gives the material on My Old Man much of its spark. “Setup” has a wide swing and an introductory doubled guitar riff that pops up again at key points throughout the track. DeCorsey keeps her vocal impressively laid back and it makes the moments when her voice reaches for emotional highs all the more effective. The mid-tempo groove of “The Woods” gives drummer Eric Kuby another chance to shine on the album and he takes full advantage of it with drum parts that prime everything else going on around him. The album closes with a memorable curtain courtesy of its title track. “My Old Man” gives DeCorsey and her band mates an opportunity to flex their muscles for dynamics and the juxtaposition of strident guitar-led passages with moments more centered on nuance imbues this performance with dramatic qualities it might otherwise lack. It’s a fitting ending for this visceral, physically engaging collection and exhibits much of the intelligence setting it apart from similar releases.
9 out of 10 stars