September 18, 2004

Jonny Polonsky "The Power of Sound"

In this business, a few artists are to be envied as 'survivors'--they're the truly talented people who make great music, and who were at one time or another considered by "the powers that be" as being "the next big thing." Back in the mid 1990s, someone must have devised a corporate memo stating that power-pop artists with a classic-rock and slightly punky edge would soon be the next trend in music. Of course, Weezer's success was the catalyst for this pseudo memo, and it explains the signing of bands like Semisonic, Superdrag and Spoon.

Furthermore, it seemed as if solo acts would have some potential--hence big deals for Brenden Bensen, Owsley, Pete Drodge and Mister Jonny Polonsky. It's probably a pretty safe guess to assume you've never heard of Jonny Polonsky. His major label debut, Hi My Name Is Jonny also proved to be his final major label release. Considering the poor track record of American, is friendly-titled and promising debut album was assured, and Jonny unfairly became a lost cause, a rare diamond whose name was known only to those who care about lost causes. I'm sure Jonny's tired of hearing about this aspect of his buisness, as it's been nearly a decade ago, but it's worth a mention. It is 2004, and he's got a great new record--sarcastically yet truthfully referred to as his 'second debut record'--so it's better to focus on the present and future.

And The Power of Sound is suh a great record! Kicking things off with "Let Me Out" Polonsky wastes no time in showing you his sharp musical teeth. It's a powerful rocker; that his lyrics might generously be called cheesy isn't surprising; his really TIGHT backing band (he and his band are a really strong power trio) slams you with such force that you won't notice that his words are somewhat geeky. As soon as you get used to his musical kick in the balls, he then slows things down with "Even the Oxen," a mellow, modern rocker that will remind you of why we critics think so highly regard the Foo Fighters debut album. The rest of The Power of Sound follows the simple formula of great sounding rock (none dare call it 'emo') and mellow, downbeat pop-rockers, but it's varied enough to be interesting.

Unlike his past records (he's done some self-releasing), The Power of Sound is concise and to the point; it barely breaks the half-hour mark; it feels like an hour's worth of music. That might be an insult for most bands, but that's the great thing about Polonsky--he makes so much out of so little. He's also spoiled me, because I want more artists with a great vocal range (check out "Calling All Babies" and "How Much Do You Know" to see why) and I want these bands to have the ability to make a great sounding MELODY. I'm spoiled now, but I'm spoiled in a good way. Expectations have been raised. Thanks, Jonny!

The Power of Sound is a creative fuck-you to the naysayers, critical dismissers, writers-off and the apathetic world at large. That Polonsky is still making music is no surprise. That he's made the best record of his career isn't a surprise, either. The real joy comes from knowing that Polonsky's made an awesome record and that such an awesome record can exist outside the music world's grasp. Polonsky is a pleasant surprise for those who accidentally stumble upon him and ambrosia for those who know his name is Jonny.

--Joseph Kyle

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