Okay, okay so I’m cheating again, Pontiak Innocence was the second LP I bought this year, on January 25th – less than three weeks after vowing not to buy any LPs for 12 months, but hey! It’s funny with new albums, I always find I have a splurge on playing them when I first buy them and then it dies away as other things compete for my goldfish-like attention span. The good ones come back though and that’s exactly what has happened to me with Innocence.
Now I bought this on a total whim because Thrill Jockey Records have a pretty high hit rate for me and I liked the write-up for it, oh and because it was on white vinyl. Yup, I am really that shallow, but you knew that anyway. This is Pontiak’s tenth album apparently but ignorant as I am, I had never heard a note by them, or even recognized their name. The few write-ups I can now find on them tend to concentrate on the fact that the band are three brothers who live and record on a farm in Virginia. From what I can gather Innocence is a bit of a departure from their previous more psychedelic sound.
The album kicks off with a two-song blast of prime Stooges-esque rawk, loud and rather feral. What really struck me though was the quality of the yelps* and the perfect sound, each instrument, no matter how fuzzy, clearly defined within a lovely spacious-sounding mix. Second track ‘Lack Lustre Rush’ actually manages a world-weary, slightly depressed Stooges sound which is also no mean feat and a bit of a pointer to future glories hereabouts. ‘Ghosts’ plays with guitar textures and adds some serious metallic chord changes into the mix behind the spasming top notes, sounding really unlike anyone else at all.
The organ-drenched slow-burner ‘It’s The Greatest’ is just a real five course banquet of a track and if it’s not about sex I demand my money back, ‘My God it’s the best afternoon we’ve had’, ‘Restraint is overrated’ – come on, don’t tell me it’s a song about playing croquet!** This would have been straight on a 1537 mixtape for the woman of my dreams in a parallel universe*^. More to the point it hits a groove and steers the band firmly towards classic American rock territory, in general I mean, not any specific practitioner of it. Next track ‘Noble Heads’, with some excellent drumming, wistful singing and melodic guitar lines hits exactly the same targets too, I could wave a Zippo to this in an entirely non-ironic manner. Completing the trio of contemplative songs is the soaring, lovely ‘Wildfires’, a full-on proper ballad which I will use to soundtrack the bit where the romance breaks down during my next indie movie^. This is simply a great sincere-sounding song with some ace hi-hat work by Lain Carney
Side 2 of Innocence comes storming back with ‘Surrounded By Diamonds’, sounding louder in comparison to the quieter tracks that preceded it. It’s a towering rocker, sung by Van Carney as though proclaiming his right to rule the earth from on top a mountain, backed by Blue Cheer, with extra amps. It’s a proper concise blast of a track. Best of all though is ‘Beings Of The Rarest’ which is an out-and-out space rocker, garnished with some great noisy guitaring – this is like all the most concentrated bits of Hawkwind / White Hills in one big cosmic jolt, worth the price of the LP alone for me.
‘Shining’ is another really exciting tune, built on an impossibly deep grumbling bass line from Jennings Carney and some supra-flanging guitari-wobbling effects, it’s a real rush for me. ‘Darkness is Coming’ is a nicely bitter acoustic-based track, I’m always a real sucker for a bitter one, ‘It must be the drugs that are making you so crazy’. It sounds like The Band with an added helping of weapons-grade spite. Which leaves it for ‘We’ve Got it Wrong’, to bring it on home, which it manages brilliantly. Again the production is noticeably excellent and the sound puts me in mind of a Southern-fried Jane’s Addiction, albeit in the good old drug-ridden days.
Innocence is an LP I have come back to a lot recently, it is a really good crunchy rock album and the brothers Carney manage the trick of sounding both experimental and classic simultaneously. For some reason it sounds particularly good in the car too, always a test of quality as far as I’m concerned. The production and overall sound of the album is warm and organic, rural sounding even. I like the sequencing too, the slow down in the middle and the subsequent rocking really works for me. It’s a quality rock LP in the same way that Earth Rocker was last year. Bonus points here too for the artwork which is wonderfully effective and understated.
Overall I believe that this is an LP that needs to be heard by so many more people than it has been already and I’d love to see them kick it live, sadly they didn’t come anywhere near me on their UK tour – maybe next time. Until then I’ll make do with some supra-flanging guitari-wobbling effects, with no restraint at all.
P.S – below is a link to their Heat Leisure film, essentially a monster outdoors jam with a few friends augmenting their line-up, it makes Virginia look stunning – the 43-minute CD of which was included as a bonus in my copy of Innocence.
*you gotta love a damn good yelp. Not as easy to do as it sounds either.
**although I do Croq like a beast, obvs.
*^guaranteed results every time. Not necessarily positive results, terms and conditions apply, see side of box for details – no refunds.
^it would play during the bit where the main characters are drinking mournfully in perfect tandem in separate bars and where they focus on the rain on taxi windows at night, possibly even passing each other, unawares. Don’t worry they’ll get together in the end. It’ll be called Trinkets, see you at Sundance.