After a year of solid touring the States and abroad, The Ponys deliver a sophomore album that more than lives up to their press and hype. Recorded with Steve Albini, Celebration Castle continues on the same course as The Ponys' debut - elements of pop and punk styles of the '60s. '70s, '80s and '90s combined in a sound that's surprisingly non-retro and fresh. Celebration Castle promises to leave not a dry seat in the house.
At heart, the Ponys are a garage band. The Chicago quartet stretches the limits of the form so far, however, they practically explode it. You could just call it "rock and roll," but the phrase is as inadequate to the Ponys as it is to Television, the Voivoids, and the Only Ones. If a band has a lifetime to prepare for their debut, the follow-up is where they really prove their mettle. Produced by Steve Albini, their second full-length makes it clear the Ponys are here to stay. Granted, Laced With Romance
was an impressive opening salvo, but Celebration Castle
aims higher. The group takes more risks and, fortunately, they pay off, like the nod to Joy Division in "We Shot the World," the Gimme Shelter
boogie-woogie of "Get Black," or when Melissa Elias takes a rare lead vocal on "She's Broken" and gives Sleater-Kinney a run for their money. --Kathleen C. Fennessy