Like the Black Angels, the Ponys are enthralled by the Velvets. But instead of channeling their VU-love into an arid, coursing drone, the Ponys -- by way of the Dream Syndicate's billowy psych -- fashion perky, distortion-spiked nuggets whose gloomy undercurrent and dispassionate croon can't hide the band's shimmering hooks.
The Chicago outfit's third album, Turn the Lights Out, released by Matador Records, tightens the Ponys' focus while bolstering the production, thanks to producer John Agnello (Jawbox, Dinosaur Jr.). After using hands-off guys Jim Diamond and Steve Albini on their first two albums, the Ponys are provided added textures by Agnello. But while the songs are bigger and better-defined, they lack some of the energy and urgency heard on previous releases. Furthermore, it seems as though the departure of guitarist Ian Adams (replaced by 90 Day Men's Brian Case) has cost the band some of its chunky, post-punk churn. The result is a very accomplished album that sounds rather predictable, settling into a familiar if very effective noise-pop buzz.
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