Ass Ponys | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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With their frequent gig cancellations--usually blamed on good old laryngitis--Cincinnati's Ass Ponys are a perfect example of a band not really giving a fuck. About success, that is--they invest plenty in their music, both emotionally and creatively. Their slightly rotund, average-guy looks and their music's superficially good-timey flavor belie the subtle intelligence and craft at work. Exploiting a strum-happy, rolling and rollicking groove, the quartet's two hard-to-find albums are packed with head-wagging tunes that creep up on the listener; gorgeous folk-flavored melodies emanate from the spinning chord cycles like heat from a sunbaked tarmac. Front man Chuck Cleaver's lyrics have a correspondingly deceptive simplicity. Sad tales of small-town life dominate his tunes, from the prosaic resignation of "Disappointed" ("I finally fixed the screen today / To keep out the flies / I just can't stand them landing / On my face at night") to the humorous description of a Bible thumper using religion to get into some girl's pants in "Dirty Backseat Car Thing"--"He's got the angels in his throat / But the devil's down there / In his scrote." The Ass Ponys' decided lack of flash has eliminated them from "making it" in the biz, but it's also made it easier for them to be themselves, which is a terribly good thing. Saturday, 10:30 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160.

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