• Polyrock
  • Polyrock (RCA) 1980 
  • Changing Hearts (RCA) 1981 
  • Above the Fruited Plain EP (PVC) 1982 
  • No Love Lost [tape] (ROIR) 1986 
  • Nine Ways to Sunday
  • Nine Ways to Sunday (Giant) 1990 

Formed in 1978, Polyrock was one of the first New York groups to explore post-disco/new-sensibility dance music. The sextet led by ex-Model Citizens singer/guitarist Billy Robertson gained unquestionable artistic credibility through the patronage of Philip Glass, who (with his producer, Kurt Munkacsi) produced and played on their two original albums. Polyrock combines minimalist repetition (the Glass influence) with electro-pop and smart, aware songs, then strips it all down to skin and bone for extremely singleminded dance music. Fascinating in its extremity.

Changing Hearts follows the same basic pattern but loosens up the sound, occasionally breaking away from austere dance music for a taste of straightforward pop, including a reworking of the Beatles’ “Rain.” Otherwise, Billy and Tommy Robertson write some of the most vulnerable songs this side of David Byrne, with solid (if lean) performances and production.

Following Tommy’s departure (which left Polyrock a notably improved five-piece), his brother produced Above the Fruited Plain, five tracks with more character and melody than any of the group’s previous releases. No Love Lost is a posthumous collection of 1980 and 1983 live performances, plus unreleased studio demos dating up to 1984.

Billy Robertson and backing vocalist Catherine Oblasney returned in 1990 with the band Nine Ways to Sunday, largely abandoning electronics in favor of acoustic instruments, though Robertson’s songwriting and vocals remain a case-study in caffeinated nervous energy. The opening track, “Midnight Train” is the album’s best, but the rest is also enjoyable, a not-spectacular collection not far removed from the Woodentops or early James. For trainspotters, the lineup of Nine Ways to Sunday also included future Nine Inch Nails percussionist Charlie Clouser and cellist Enrique Tiru-Velel, who would flash in the ’90s pan with the band Psychotica.

[Steven Grant / Ira Robbins / Brad Reno]