Chicago's Ponys fronted by guitarists Jared Gummere and Ian Adams (also on keyboards), and occasionally by bassist Melissa Elias, played a sprightly array of mod-era rock, garage-rock, psychedelic-pop, power-pop on Laced With Romance (In The Red, 2004).
Let's Kill Ourselves
deserved to become the anthem of their generation,
its cosmic guitar riff taking turns with a soaring refrain propelled by a groove
exactly halfway between
the Rolling Stones and the
The singing on 10 Fingers 11 Toes apes early Pere Ubu but over the typical garage sound of the Sixties (Sonics, Raiders).
Another peak is the ebullient albeit derivative Little Friends,
its staccato guitars and hysterical vocals evoking the Talking Heads and Devo from another age, and, last but not least, boasting an epic organ riff.
The insistent guitar interplay at exuberant pace of these songs owes something to Television as well.
Their way of plagiarizing the classics is uniquely shameless and, at the same time, creative. Fall Inn opens with a blatant copy of the guitar riff from the Crystals' And Then He Kissed Me only to borrow the sneering tone of the Sex Pistols.
Trouble Trouble weds the most abused of martial progressions (echoing across the history of rock music from the Blues Brothers to the Fleshtones) with a fantastic organ fugue
that even the Doors' Ray Manzarek would die for.
The Ponys' art is semiotic and mythological in nature. They take signs that
are supercharged with emotional meaning and then proceed to assemble
constructs that resonate with the soul of their generation.
The ska-esque beat of Chemical Imbalance brings to mind early Clash with a galactic guitar bridge lifted from Devo's Gut Feeling.
The six-minute The Only One sounds like a cross between Lou Reed' Waiting For The Man and David Bowie's Jean Genie.
They are less successful when they take themselves too seriously, namely in
the (relatively) lengthy I'll Make You A Star, that sounds like a
mainstream version of a Jimi Hendrix ballad.
If the youthful exuberance of the debut was to remain unmatched,
Celebration Castle (In The Red, 2005) showed, at least, a fuller sound.
If the pounding Shadow Box and the syncopated Get Black
were close relatives of the first album's grenades,
the opener itself, Glass Conversation, immediately demonstrated a
newly-found melodramatic tone.
The emotional core of the album pivots around the menacing, brooding, slow
tortures of We Shot the World, while the bluesy Today and
the angry She's Broken (by a female singer) bring to the foreground the
visceral feelings that lay underneath the corrosive surface of the first album.
If the first album was punk-rock's enthusiasm reincarnate, the second album was
a reincarnation of the zeitgeist of the post-punk era.
After the album was recorded, Adams left and was replaced by Brian Case.
By comparison with the first album and its
breakneck parades of high-energy refrains and riffs,
Turn The Lights Out (Matador, 2007) was an album of shoegazing
psychedelia, all transcendental and hypnotic. The problem is that mostly
this new take on their garage-rock hides the fact that the material is less
impressive, both musically and lyrically. Only two songs truly succeeded,
Double Vision and Small Talk, while the likes of
1209 Seminary recycled stereotypes and others simply lacked any
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