Ass Ponys

Electric Rock Music

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The somewhere between funny and odd album title, not to mention the vegetable-people art on the inside, gives a fair enough indication as to where the Ass Ponys would go with their major-label bow -- namely, in the same direction as always, and with fine results. Cleaver's singing is still just freaky enough on the one hand, high and quavery, and straightforward enough on the other to ensure that the band stood out in the rush of commercial alternative tomfoolery of the early '90s. Together the four musicians could kick up a chiming guitar storm and quietly lull without sounding like another Nirvana wannabe. Often it comes down the low-key strengths of the group to add just enough to songs, whether it's Erhardt's good way around pedal and slide guitars or Morrison's addition of organ as well as percussion. Perhaps tellingly enough, commercial success never resulted for them, but it wasn't for lack of quality. When at their most straightforward, the Ponys still know how to spike the cocktail; "Little Bastard" rides a great classic rock wah-wah/indie music combination chug, but the lyrics, detailing a kid getting mocked by his grandma and later wetting himself, don't smell of teen spirit in any combination. Other similarly off-kilter references include alien visitations, sucking someone off for cigarettes, or watching Heaven's Gate ("but the movie lasted far too long"). The sense is of cheerfully strange good and bad times a la the Flaming Lips instead of studied wackiness from the likes of Phish or the Barenaked Ladies. If there's a perfect moment on the album, "Live Until I Die" could probably take the cake, detailing the passing of another day doing not much ("I'm still in my underwear, listening to 'The Weight'") with a fun groove and kick.

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