Friday, February 6, 2009

Jonny Polonsky - The Power of Sound - 2004

Jonny Polonsky's The Power of Sound is his first full-length album since 1996's Hi My Name Is Jonny. It is a welcome return. He sounds older, tougher, and less quirky. There is more power in his power pop, both because of the beefier guitars and heavier drums but also due to the sense of lost time and opportunities that often pops up in the lyrics and the more emotional and assured vocals, too. Most importantly, the hooks are sharper and more memorable this time around. "Let Me Out" is a perfect opener, blasting out of the speakers like a call to arms; "Much Love" is a bitterly sad song with sugar-coated chorus and some a classic Harrison-esque guitar soloing; "Calling All Babies" makes stunning use of the old quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic and matches "Let Me Out" in the anthem stakes; "Live for the Light" is a snaky, heartfelt rocker that explodes into some classic AOR guitar riffing. Throughout, Polonsky sounds committed and in total control of his craft. Even the less exciting songs like "Shitstorm" and the acoustic "All This Freezing" put 98 percent of power pop-inspired revivalists to shame. Not that he is a revivalist...well, not so much of a power pop revivalist anyway. In many ways the record sounds like it could have been released before Hi My Name Is Jonny, say, in 1994 or so. The post-Pixies/Nirvana dynamics, the shiny and full production, the bitter and defeated tone of many of the lyrics, the at-times howling vocals, the AOR-friendly guitar riffs, and the overall feel of the record bring to mind the days immediately following the grunge explosion when bands like the Posies, Jellyfish, the Gigolo Aunts, and Matthew Sweet were combining the sonic assault of grunge with the classic pop songcraft of '60s groups like the Hollies and their '70s offspring like the Raspberries. It is an unexpected approach, and it seems too early for records to be harking back to that time, but Polonsky pulls it off for the most part. You may find yourself wishing for a more organic sound or a less aggressive approach like he exhibited on his debut, but that was a long time ago. Jonny has moved on and so can you. There are enough great songs and performances here to sweep away all your doubts. This is one of the best rock albums of 2004. Don't let it pass you by. -AMG

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Slarty Bartfast said...

Thanks for this - do you have The Idle Wilds, on Ardent?

eyeballkid said...

I remember seeing him open for Frank Black in 96ish...he fell off the stage hard, poor kid

Curty Ray said...


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