Ponys | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Plenty of current rock bands borrow sounds from the glory days of CBGB or from the slightly gothier British scene of the years that followed, but few seem like they're investing themselves wholeheartedly--which is completely wrongheaded, because if there's anything inspiring to take away from the tragic stories of Johnny Thunders and Ian Curtis, it's a sense of the total commitment that made them helpless to follow any other path. Neither slapdash thrashers nor costumed revivalists, the Ponys sound so nakedly and innocently devoted to that sad street goddess rock 'n' roll that you almost worry for them. Every ringing Verlaine-ified guitar turn, every Farfisa burble, every insistent, melodic bass riff that's like Joy Division pounding desolately on the gates of heaven, every clanging breakdown that's like Sonic Youth falling down a flight of stairs--it's as if this band has lived in it while those other guys were just playing it. Celebration Castle (In the Red), the new album from these locals, is so good it teeters on the edge of heartbreaking, each song constructed with the understanding that rock is really just as much about tension and anticipation as it is about payoff. Guitarist Ian Adams quit this winter, and the handful of sardonic pop tunes he contributed to Castle and its predecessor, Laced With Romance--which stood out like a pair of cuff links in a dive bar, in part because his coy vocals contrasted so radically with front man Jered Gummere's plaintive howl--have been retired as well, along with the keyboard parts he sometimes added. New guitarist Brian Case of the 90 Day Men plays a six-string, not a jangly twelve-string like Adams often did, and never sings lead, but these changes have only made the band's live sound more raw and aggressive. This is a record-release party. The Subsonics and Plastic Crimewave Sound open. Fri 4/29, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $10.

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