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Album Review

After the ragged-but-right hard rock triumph of Fiesta en la Biblioteca, the Pontiac Brothers stripped their sound back just a bit on Johnson, which eased off on the bombast in favor of a leaner, more roots-centered sound (perhaps in deference to their special guest, former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan). While the band still had power to spare, the production was more straightforward, with a cleaner, sharper tone replacing the thicker wallop of Fiesta. And though the band sounds like they're in good humor as always, there isn't the same degree of wit on Johnson; the goofy road stories of "Ain't What I Call Home" and "Need My Head's fade-out Elvis tribute make it clear this band was still in touch with their goofiness, but despite the fact the band was playing as well as ever, there's an edge of weariness in the songs that suggests the fun was starting to go out of the act. (And "Creep" sounds more like padding than anything else.) However, the Pontiac Brothers had set themselves a high standard with Fiesta, and if Johnson isn't quite as good, it comes close enough to be welcome on any rock fan's stereo; Matt Simon never sang this well, Ward Dotson's guitar work is all primitive genius, Kurt Bauman and D.A. Valdez hold down the rhythm like they were born to it, and the final track, "Real Job," is perhaps their greatest song, a defiant call to arms for every short-on-cash rocker struggling against the odds. The Pontiac Brothers called it quits after Johnson (they briefly reunited for one more album in 1992), but one listen to this record confirms that they went down swinging.


Formed: 1983 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

"Our singer was a drummer, our drummer was a bass player, and collectively we had all the drive of a perpetual hangover," wrote Ward Dotson of his band the Pontiac Brothers, and while that statement gives you a clear picture of the band's self-effacing attitude and fondness for beer, it doesn't tell you that they were one of the best and most purely enjoyable American bands of the '80s, embracing the joys of vintage hard rock with a punk's jaundiced eye well before the grunge explosion made such...
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Johnson, The Pontiac Brothers
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