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Polaris and Mark Mulcahy: The Greatest Band of Fall

September 29, 2011

Autumn is easily the most spectacular season of all for me. The invading breezes relieve us of the daunting Summer heatwaves, football season kicks off, trees adorn their most beautiful colors and music seems to accompany it as fluently as ever.

Polaris is the greatest band for Fall weather.

In case you missed Jeremy’s column on his 2011 fall playlist recommendations, I would like to treat you to a special look at Fall’s greatest band. One I’m sure most of you have never heard of.

Polaris was a brief musical project formed by the majority of the members of 90s indie rock band Miracle Legion. Most of my  young friends would not recognize the band unless I popped in a cassette tape of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, the popular children’s show on Nickelodeon that aired in the same decade. Naturally, the show’s theme song, “Hey Sandy,” went on to be the band’s most recognizable hit.

Primarily, Polaris was formed to be the house band for the show, providing the opening theme song, as well as various supporting music used throughout the program’s three seasons, from 1993-1996. Comprised of Mark Mulcahy (guitar/vocals), Scott Boutier (bass) and Dave McCaffrey (drums), the three-piece went on to produce some truly unforgettable tracks, now gems of the lost indie greats of the 1990s.

Need an indicator for how ‘off the radar’ these guys are? They’ve never played a live show. (At least not as Polaris.)

Their music is a blend of Mulcahy’s playful vocals, which falls somewhere between Bob Dylan’s introspection and Randy Newman’s delivery, as well as poppy electric guitar and bass, fit for any relaxing alternative rock outfit. The lyrics and hooks are all contagious, making for what would have been radio classics, had the music been marketed correctly.

The eleven songs produced for Pete & Pete would be collected on one album, appropriately entitled Music from the Adventures of Pete & Pete, released in 1999 via Mulcahy’s Mezzotint label.

In case you didn’t snag one of Polaris’ promotional cassettes, which were available in boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats during Pete & Pete’s heyday, you can still order the album on the Mezzotint website. Most torrents and P2P programs provide scarce results of a forever overlooked band and album.

So why Fall you ask? I guess its the association built with Pete & Pete; a show which seemed to always take place in Autumn. Or, it could be that one of the album’s best tracks is “Waiting for October?” Personally, the band’s blend of warm pop rock that seems fit for a neighborhood cookout is just the sound of the season.

Unfortunately, this special band came and went as fast as a falling leaf.

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