There’s just something about a spastic vocalist. At some point in time, someone must’ve told him to just knock it off and sing like a normal person, but a good spaz can’t be restrained. Ponys frontman Jered Gummere had that sort of elastic yelp on his Chicago band’s antsy 2004 debut,
Laced with Romance, but it’s been steadily fading since. On the Ponys’ third album, he seems determined to match his vocals to the band’s increasingly psychedelic aesthetic—
Turn Out the Lights is clogged with reverb-choked guitar riffs too woozy to propel the garage rock they ought to carry. Right alongside them in the echo chamber is Gummere’s now sluggish voice; studio effects soften the edge on his warble, leaving nothing but melodies that are forgettable and sometimes horribly out of tune, such as those on “Shine,” whose trippy, lurching guitar can’t/shouldn’t be emulated by the human voice.
But there are bright spots. On “Pickpocket Song” and “Exile on My Street,”
Lights awakes from its stupor and drums up some of the band’s old energy. And the way the title track’s organ and guitar ramble on nonchalantly is charming in a Pavement sort of way. Now there was a guy unashamed of his voice.