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Turn the Lights Out

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Album Review

On their third album (and first for Matador), Chicago noise-pop titans the Ponys offer up a few small but noticeable changes from the approach of their first two albums, Laced with Romance and Celebration Castle. Ian Adams left the band shortly after Celebration Castle was completed, and Turn the Lights Out marks the recorded debut of new guitarist Brian Case, who brings a more controlled and less frantic style to these new songs. Also, while the first two albums were respectively produced by the relatively hands-off Jim Diamond and Steve Albini, Turn the Lights Out was produced by the band with the assistance of John Agnello, and he seems to have imposed a greater degree of discipline on the Ponys — this is a decidedly cleaner and more disciplined disc than their earlier efforts, though Agnello still honors the deep and echoey sound that's been the band's trademark in the studio. Despite it all, this still sounds like the Ponys, and the changes have done them much more good than harm. Having spent plenty of time on the road with the band before recording Turn the Lights Out, Case has seamlessly integrated with his bandmates, especially Jered Gummere, with whom he's become half of an impressive guitar team. Bassist Melissa Elias and drummer Nathan Jerde back them up with a faultless sense of purposefully woozy swing, and the results are as powerful as anything these folks have put to tape, capturing a juicy, organic give-and-take between the players without squeezing the life out of the music. Agnello's production and engineering offers a wealth of aural detail while creating a strong, unified aural presence. And quite simply, the Ponys sound like champs on this set — they play with both precision and dark fire, the songs are top-notch, and the epochal closer, "Pickpocket Song," is a masterpiece. Turn the Lights Out is the most mature and technically accomplished album the Ponys have made to date, but it doesn't lack the excitement and edge of the fine music that preceded it, and they've quietly grown into one of the best young bands currently at work.


Formed: 2001 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Chicago post-punk revivalists the Ponys formed in early 2001, inaugurated by singer/guitarist Jered Gummere in the months prior to dissolution of his previous project, local punk unit the Guilty Pleasures. He began writing and singing with girlfriend and bassist Melissa Elias, and after adding former Mushuganas drummer Nathan Jerde, the Ponys began playing the Windy City club circuit. The late 2002 addition of one-time Happy Supply singer/multi-instrumentalist Ian Adams radically reconfigured the...
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Turn the Lights Out, The Ponys
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