Ass Ponys

Mr. Superlove

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Produced in part by the Afghan Whigs' John Curley, the Ass Ponys' first album establishes the band's wonderfully fun and shaggy aesthetic from the start. "Hey Swifty" may have the ghost of R.E.M. hanging over the proceedings; to be sure, that ghost is present in the hints of jangle and vocal catch which surface in Cleaver's singing more than once. Still, that Athens, GA foursome never played a song detailing holding one's hand over a candle, shooting "that mother in the mirror," then being invited to "come around sometime" while dying on the rug -- all in the first verse! With that as their start, the Ass Ponys take a ten-song trip around a rural America of quirks and strange cul-de-sacs, always with a good ear for solid, sometimes melancholy indie-rock melodies and performances, while rarely sounding patronizing or goofy for the hell of it. At times they definitely seem a bit like the country cousin of They Might Be Giants at their most annoying; "Ford Madox Ford" gets in a couple of zingers at the poet in question, but the music is more distinct than the words. Such moments, however, are few and far between, happily. Instead, it's images like "pissing on a campfire/with the morning coming close" in "Laughing at the Ghosts" and hiding from the rain in an abandoned car in "Thank You for the Roses" that stand out, showing Cleaver as a genius for sharp, tender imagery. "(We All Love) Peanut Butter," a sweetly silly song by another act, gets covered by the Ponys with aplomb, but the deceptively gentle title track takes top honors, something recognized by the Whigs when they did a remake of it four years later. Combining a strange, unsettling lyric describing a vague scene of romantic turmoil and physical abuse with a chorus about being "Mr. Superlove," it's little surprise that Greg Dulli found some inspiration here.

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