Half-Gifts Classic: Polaris - "Music From the Adventures of Pete and Pete"

Polaris - Music from the Adventures of Pete and Pete
(Mezzotint 1999)
"Rivals the soundtrack of John Hughes' Pretty In Pink in terms of stand alone playability"
Even if you've seen an episode or two, you may not have realized that The Adventures of Pete and Pete, a short lived program on Nickelodeon that aired in the mid nineties, played many then-obscure bands as background music that have now achieved semi legendary status, including the Magnetic Fields and shoegaze act Drop Nineteens. Despite the outstanding musical lineup that rivals the soundtrack of John Hughes' Pretty In Pink in terms of stand alone playability, the fictional band that sometimes appears in the Petes' neighborhood, Polaris, is the one that sticks in the minds of loyal fans.

Fronted by Miracle Legion's Mark Mulcahy, Polaris' genre-less garage band feel is a perfect match for the show's low key, vaguely offbeat vibe. Their sound, like Pete and Pete, still feels fresh to this day due to its timeless spirit and brazen simplicity. Simple chord progressions only serve to Mulcahy's chiming lead guitars, which shower and fizzle like the emissions of a 4th of July sparkler. His twangy, slightly acidic accompanying vocals add a bit of abrasion to the buttery instrumentation provided by the backing band, but it only improves the already solid base of each track. Polaris' knack for harmony and production can cause any song, even one about summer, to evoke the feeling and mood of late Autumn, which in my opinion, is the perfect season for creating sonic and lyrical imagery. In fact, much of the show seems to be set in the fall, as evident in the ever-present flannels and Little Pete's red hunting cap.

"Hey Sandy" is the first song on the album and Pete and Pete's theme song, an upbeat tune with glistening guitar and bouncy rhythm that serve as a lively introduction to both the compilation as well as the show itself. It's highlighted by a soaring guitar solo that melts in your inner ear, and it's one of the few theme songs I've heard that translates from the small screen to speakers. Don't stop there, though, as the best cuts off the soundtrack are buried three-fourths of the way through like "Coronado II", which takes a less callous take on Dinosaur Jr's alt-rock delivery. Things even slow down for the baroque-pop infused "As Usual". Even if you haven't seen an episode of Pete and Pete (which you should do sometime soon), give Polaris a listen. For a band featured on a Nickelodeon series, they're outstanding.