One of the hallmarks of postmillennial alternative rock is the tension that results from the conflict between aural texture and melody. On their first two albums, Chicago’s post-punk revivalists The Ponys were admired for their mastery of the simple, indelible hook, but the blanket utilization of reverb and distortion made it seem as if the band was either too timid or too lazy to think about anything else. Maybe it was the people producing them, but on their new album the addictive quality of the tunes is inseparable from their big dirty sound, even if Jered Gummere still hasn’t learned how to sing on key.

Many will give credit to new guitarist Brian Case, whose licks are more disciplined than Gummere’s (making for some really nice counterpoint on The Kinks-like opener “Double Vision”), but what seems to have made the difference is a less stringent attitude toward songwriting. Striving for both variety of expression and a heavy sonic impact, The Ponys end up forging a sound they can finally call their own.

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