The Midwestï¿½s rock turbine has to be one of the biggest and baddest rock ï¿½nï¿½ roll engines in the nation. Fueled by nothing more than sweat, booze and cigarette smoke, this machine continues to chug across the States, leaving firm believers in its wake.
Thereï¿½s something supremely simple about the music coming from Midwestern cities. Itï¿½s unadulterated and free of any impurities. Iï¿½m not just talking about bands like Wilco or the White Stripes but the whole Midwest scene, which goes largely unnoticed while the coasts are engulfed in an uber-hipness tug of war. The Ponys, from Chicago, are one of these steam engines that keep rolling down the line, threatening to never stop.
Celebration Castle is the follow-up to the Ponysï¿½ 2004 debut, Laced with Romance, which found itself on most criticsï¿½ best-of lists because of its fresh mix of pop and garage rock. Celebration finds frontman Jared Gummere and the same cast creating yet another solid blend of guitar rhythms, poppy vocals and clever hooks.
Cruising through a quieter set of cornfields than its predecessor, Celebration Castle never fully grasps the energy of Laced with Romance, but its songwriting and guitar work are equally as strong. With songs that evoke the sonic landscapes of Joy Division (ï¿½We Shot the Worldï¿½) countered by jangly yet rambunctious tunes like ï¿½Todayï¿½ and ï¿½Glass Conversation,ï¿½ the Ponysï¿½ own take on punk would be found between the Velvet Undergroundï¿½s art-punk and the Cureï¿½s poppy shoe-gazing.
Celebration Castle picks up on what seems to be a long road ahead for the Ponys, despite the departure of addition singer/guitarist Ian Adams, who left the band a few weeks before this album was released. The Ponys have worked with influential producers — Steve Albini on Celebration Castle and Jim Diamond on Laced With Romance — but itï¿½s the bandï¿½s own hard work and exceptional songwriting that plows through the speakers and keeps this train chugging.