Shudder to Think's major-label debut, Pony Express Record, boasted a better sound/production than past releases (courtesy of producer Ted Nicely and mixer Andy Wallace), and signaled more focused songwriting on the group's part. It was by no means a sellout, because even on earlier releases the group's ambitious songwriting was in full effect. And "focused" songwriting from Shudder to Think does not mean three-chord, predictable verse-chorus-verse compositions, either. Pony Express Record challenges the listener in many ways: stop/start riffing ("X-French Tee Shirt"), oblique lyrics ("Earthquakes Come Home"), often dramatic, Freddie Mercury-like vocals ("Gang of $"), and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink song structures ("No Rm. 9, Kentucky"). The music is consistently unpredictable, mixing jazz, metal, art rock, folk, experimental, and alternative in the band's melting pot. And all of the songs boast strong melodies, which initially draw the listener in until you realize that there's more than meets the ear. Pony Express Record also marked the studio debut of guitar whiz Nathan Larson and drummer Adam Wade (Larson became an integral member of the group, helping to write five tracks, while Wade left after the supporting tour). One of the most underrated rock records of the '90s.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Prato