Ass Ponys

Some Stupid with a Flare Gun

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Here's another veteran U.S. underground combo that wasn't killed by being signed and then dropped by a major label, as happened so damn often during the '90s. Perhaps it's been four years since A&M gave Ass Ponys the heave after their second major LP (fourth overall), 1996's The Known Universe, but Cincinnati's second best-loved band (behind the Afghan Whigs) is still going strong on Some Stupid. Never the most consistent bunch, the comeback record is as ever hit-and-miss, but, like previous albums, the hits are sincere enough to make the group worthwhile. True, Chuck Cleaver's nasally, twangy voice is an acquired taste, like Lotion's singer, only higher, but he also seems genuine in his wry but sympathetic tales of small town inertia on "Your Amazing Life," "Side Winder," and "Casper's Coming Home," plus he's remains game for goofball wordplay on "X-tra Nipple." The group also still has the rootsy-Midwestern pop thing down: The truly great track, "Astronaut," is an instant pleaser, a hook so big you'll think "hit single." The louder backing for Cleaver's trilling sets the tone for the remainder, and on the later reverberating tracks, the foursome makes the best use of supple bassist Randy Cheek -- who'd previously contributed so much to one of the greatest overlooked bands of the 1980s, the Libertines. Overall, solid, unpretentious fun.

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