"Polished" and "punk" are musical adjectives that don't always mix. Buff away the rough edges from good punk, and you can easily end up with soulless quasi-pop. It takes a lot of care to produce aesthetically pleasing punk without sacrificing its unkempt side, but the Agency pulls it off nicely on Pollination Strategies. In the end, the act's arty-yet-bristly groove is a vehicle for vocalist Rich Groskopf -- aka Idle Rich, the animated former Boss 302 frontman -- who channels Jello Biafra and Frank Sinatra in equal measure. "Liver Disease," a standout cut from Strategies, gives Groskopf the perfect outlet to croon such lines as "Liver disease blows softly, gently through the trees" over inventively structured indie-rock riffery. The melancholy bass line of "Last Song First Note," punctuated by buzz-saw guitar blasts, nods at new-wave balladry without resorting to synthesizers.
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