From the first warbling, child-like verse of "last night it snowed" through almost an hour of southern-fried, post-modern, twisted, arabesque and sad indie pop-rock this album means business. The Ponys have been churning out music since the late 80's, and their legacy includes a brief stint as major-label-almost-stars thanks to the '94 single "little bastard". Thier last major label disc was the spotty "known universe" in '97.... then, the boys fell of the map for a few years. When they returned, they almost sounded like a different band. When bands return to indie lables (checkered past), it is often sort of a homecoming--- and a liberation for a group of artists previously forced to spend more time negotiating with corporate slicksters than creating music. Such was the case with "Lohio"'s predecessor, "some stupid with a flare gun". The band sounded rough, but totally revitalized, and Chuck Cleaver came through with the best batch of songs of his career.... until "Lohio". Simply put, "Lohio" is a landmark album, a masterpiece. The first song tumbles from a tender, folky ode to a crushing, slash-and-burn guitar blast all in the space of a minute and a half. It's killer, It sounds so fresh, so vital. Better than battle-scarred vets have any right to sound. And it just gets better. The 2nd track, "Kung Fu reference" is arguably the best track the Ponys have ever laid down, and easily the best song of the year. Classic pop song structure, sophisticated lyrics that are achingly poignant due to an arcane pop-culture allusion and a wonderfully sad twist at the end: "Blade Runner's at the part where Rutger Hauer dies/I don't know anything/why do I pretend to?/If I did, I'd be the one? who's living with you know." brilliant. Far too many smart-aleck pop-culture whizzes write songs that are all cleverness and no heart. Masterfully, Chuck Cleaver brings the whole emotional mass of the song crashing down on his listeners with that last sad missive, much like John Prine or Randy Newman. Jokes that break your heart. That and a devastating guitar solo make the track an instant classic.
Over the course of the rest of the record there are punky-bluegrassy sounds, dirgy guitars, wide-eyed pastoral folkiness... it's all great. There isn't anything close to a bad song on the disc.
It's easily the best Ass Ponys album, one of a handful of great albums from '01 and an instant entry into my personal Top 20.
It took a deacde and a half, but the Pony's finally built their masterpiece!