After scoring a college radio hit with "Stone Cold Yesterday" from 1990's One Simple Word, the Connells followed up with their strongest effort to date, the radio-ready Ring. While muddy production and underdeveloped songs occasionally plagued their earlier releases, Ring is an album aimed squarely at the mainstream, and is a clear attempt to pick up on fans of R.E.M., alt-country like Uncle Tupelo, and rootsy power pop like Marshall Crenshaw. The album's first single, a lilting and seemingly unassuming acoustic ballad entitled "'74-'75" became an unexpected smash hit in Europe, topping the pop charts in many countries across the continent. The song was equally indebted to acoustic-based roots rock as it was to Celtic music (as witnessed in the ornate backing vocals) and was one of the band's most successful concoctions. Subsequent singles, such as the poppy "Slackjawed" and the nostalgic "New Boy" (which sounds like it was written as musical accompaniment to a James Thurber story) each managed to garner some alternative radio attention as well. The album tracks were equally as strong, especially the tense "Carry My Picture," a stark portrait of a vindictive relationship. Ring established the Connells as the forerunners in the group of jangle pop bands that had previously lived largely in the shadow of R.E.M. and helped the band become a moderate commercial success. While time has not been kind to the band or this album, the Connells clearly held some influence. In 2000, Fran Healy of the British guitar pop band Travis admitted that his band's 1999 hit "Writing to Reach You" was written while listening to "'74-'75" on the radio, and was, in effect, a bit of a rip-off. The songs sound unmistakably similar, and it's enough proof that the Connells deserve much more credit for their contributions to guitar-based pop than they have previously been given.
AllMusic Review by Jason Damas