Poliça – ‘United Crushers’ Review

The once-placid electro-poppers tackle police brutality and fear for the future on their third album

Poliça’s new record was made while vocalist Channy Leaneagh was heavily pregnant with her first child (that’s her baby bump on the cover) and, even though it’s not necessarily about motherhood, the experience has clearly had a hand in shaping it.

Their frontwoman’s changing circumstances meant the Minneapolis synth-pop five-piece approached this record as if it were their last – and one of its recurring themes is Leaneagh’s anxiety over the sort of world she’s bringing her child into. It’s a concern that’s present from the very first line of the very first song ‘Summer Please’, which finds her wondering “Whatcha wanna be when you’re big enough to see it’s all sh*t” – a question that probably doesn’t get asked very much on Mumsnet.

By far the most striking manifestation of that angst, however, is found on latest single ‘Wedding’, the video for which features Leaneagh and a group of Hensonesque muppets explaining police brutality to an audience of smiling black schoolchildren. Poliça tend to deal more in artful subtleties than big, eye-catching Beyoncé-at-the-Super-Bowl statements, but even without the context of the video, lyrics like: “Every voice is like a click/Trigger after trigger/We don’t even know we’re sick/ Leaders, we have none” leave little doubt what the song’s about.

That directness is a welcome addition to the music, too – previously, Leaneagh’s voice has often been obscured by producer Ryan Olson’s penchant for Auto-Tune and digital manipulation, but it’s left mostly untouched on tracks like ‘Baby Sucks’ and ‘Kind’ and is all the more effective for it.

Unsurprisingly, Leaneagh’s hopes, fears and anxieties define ‘United Crushers’. However, the rest of the band – particularly Olson, whose work with experimental side-projects Gayngs, Digitata and Marijuana Deathsquads has made him one of the most compelling (and confounding) musical polymaths out there – also deserve a lot of credit, not least for the punchy stadium hip-hop stylings of ‘Top Coat’ and discombobulating polyrhythms of ‘Berlin’.

If this really is Poliça’s “final paper” (as Leaneagh’s called it), then they’ve excelled themselves with the most intimate and empowering album of their career.