The beautiful thing about Jonny Polonsky is how he has seemingly extracted all the truly worthwhile gold from Seventies era music, and left the dross behind.
Just get one whiff of his new "Roll On," and it will likely transport you straight back to the T Rex heyday. It's a pseudo blues stomper with Polonsky's big bold vocals blanketed over a hand-clapped rhythm section. Makes you want to just get up and bang a gong. Know what I mean?
At only six songs in length, this is not the satisfying follow-up to "Hi My Name Is Jonny" we've all been waiting for. But it will have to do for now.
Each song works in its own unique way. "You Are My Star" uses a floating buzzing synthesizer line to carry this recording's lone ballad. "Freezed" fully utilizes Polonsky's Steven Tyler-meets-Graham Parker voice for a Dwight Twilley-like pop-rocker. The single "Long Gone" sounds like it should be a hit with its emotionalism straight out of the influence of The Replacements' repertoire.
His brief stay on Sony may not have shot him into stardom, but Jonny Polonsky still retains a cool vibe -- star or no star
Hardly prolific whichever way you tend to look at things, it's been close to 5 years since the release of Jonny Polonsky's ten song, twenty four minute debut, 'Hi, My Name Is Jonny'. Barely had appetites been whetted by the obviously talented Polonsky, when soon after the release of the 'Love Lovely Love EP, which closely followed the album, his label, American Recordings closed down.
With just a handful of compilation appearances in the interim, it might not have been unreasonable to expect a little more than the mere six tracks and sixteen minutes which comprise 'There's Something Wrong With You', his debut for his new label. However, having read that he recorded a follow up which he subsequently shelved due to lack of label interest at the time, perhaps we ought to be more grateful, for it's the quality that important and that's still in evidence here.
Seemingly revitalised after his long absence, Polonsky's new material is an abundance of energy and hooks and although brief, such is the strength of the songs that that you'll happily find yourself playing the whole thing two or three times in succession. The closing pair of tracks, the stomping Glam rock of Roll On and the should-be curtain closer You Are My Star are both particularly fine examples.
Polonsky is evidently a very capable exponent of the three-minute pop song and we deserve to hear from him more regularly. In the CD age, with so many artists trying too hard to fill the available recording space, perhaps brevity is something that ought to be applauded. Despite the long wait, on the strength of 'There's Something Wrong With You', there's absolutely nothing at all wrong with Jonny Polonsky.
For anyone who moons over the glory days of power pop, hopefully you're aware of some current practitioners. Anything by Jason Falkner should be looked into, and even Tommy Keene reemerged recently. Two of this year's big ones came with Red Planet and Jonny Polonsky.
San Francisco's Red Planet try to give you some idea of what's up with their back cover pic. One guy's in a Donnas t-shirt while another's in a Red Planet shirt printed in the style of Cheap Trick's "typo" design. Van Halen albums are all over the place and a guitar is taped up to resemble Eddie's design.
Forget the Van Halen reference. This is basically young-loud-&-snotty, revved-up power pop with a little extra edge, with lyrics see-sawing from the "C'mon baby" to "Screw you!" categories, depending on the lyrical situation. They may be planning to "Get Back At You" while at other times they want you to "C'mon Little Girl." They like to party, too, of course. They "Can't Wait" ("I can't wait to do more), as is the case with any "Wasted Teens" ("My parents are gone/So are we"). Think Cheap Trick, a little Cars, and quite a bit of other lesser-lights of late-'70s power-pop and you'll be ready to make the next beer run.
Jonny Polonsky somehow flew under the radar a little while back with THERE IS SOMETHING THAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, hands-down the best power-pop set in recent memory. Six songs and nothing but good stuff, easily besting his '96 debut. "Freezed" gives you a good idea of where Polonsky is these days: big guitars, a room-filling bass, great hooks, and and some fine power-pop-pleading in JP's vocals. "Long Gone" shows you just how much fun it can be to sing a title over and over (with a car-chase tempo for added kicks), and "You Are My Star" gives the proper acknowledgement to Big Star. Cheap Trick's shadow looms over the EP as well. A bunch of songs that stick with you like a fried breakfast. Polonsky's reportedly got an album's worth of new ones coming together and looking for an interested label. Count me in as a reference.
The Chunky Soup slogan is, or at least was, "The soup that eats like a meal," right? The implication is that a bowl of soup shouldn't be enough to satisfy hungry little you, yet in the case of Chunky, it does. As Midwestern pop wonder kid Johnny Polonsky puts forth his second release, a song cycle that's over way too quickly yet proves more filling than most 75-minute discs, the analogy seems to work.
Most wouldn't consider six songs clocking in at less than 16 minutes to he a full-length release. Hell, you could listen to this entire record twice in the time it takes to play The Allman Brothers' "Mountain Jam," and you'd still have time leftover to take a quick piss. But much like his 1996 American Recordings debut Hi My Name Is Jonny - a mini masterpiece that took a full 24 minutes for its 10 tunes-this record is, as John Wesley Harding said of the debut, "exactly as long as it should be." Anyway, enough dwelling on this guy's penchant for rock and roll brevity; fact is, he does what he needs to do in a very short amount of time without skimping on anything, and as the Colonel told Elvis to do, he always leaves you wanting more.
Polonsky's guitar-driven rock songs with traditional pop structures and a sonic blueprint lifted from the Nirvana/Pixies school still sound powerful and fresh. "Long Gone" is a manic two-minute blast of fury that would sound like Hüsker DU if that hand had ever made a well-produced record. Woulda fit in perfectly on a Sugar record. This guy can even bust a ballad; "You Are My Star" avoids triteness, retaining full integrity while also being the kind of song you could play for your mother.
Pop thrills like these aren't easy to come by. Let's hope Jonny's got a stock-pile of songs to grace us with in the years to come. He's a great guy to be a fan of. Besides, when they finally make the boxed set, the whole thing will fit on one disc.