Jonny Polonsky – The Power of Sound

Jonny Polonsky
The Power of Sound

Really, there was no pressing need for Jonny Polonsky to follow up his 1996 debut Hi My Name is Jonny in any great hurry; I for one could’ve waited even longer. A likeable-enough set of brash power-pop, it was also unessential and without lasting impact, its territory having been covered countless times before and since. Still, the nine year drought Jonny suffered through (broken only by 2001’s solid There is Something Wrong With You EP) was an exceptionally long fallow period, one usually equaled only by the likes of long simmering veterans such as Peter Gabriel or Leonard Cohen, two giants of power-pop in their own right. What Jonny did with his time off I don’t know, but at least Leonard became a monk. Jonny, couldn’t you have managed come up with a better reason to care after so long away?

Post-debut, his obit having been writ, the world moved on to embrace other purveyors of Midwestern anglophilia, other fans of Cheap Trick’s hooks, and the Replacements’ heart, leaving Jonny free to fade back into obscurity. I imagine him bemoaning his fate on a barstool alongside fellow Illinois shoulda-been Adam Schmitt, a far superior practitioner of the style with an equally thin catalog to show for his decade-plus long effort. It’s Polonsky who returns to us, however, with the middling The Power of Sound, still capably delivering his pop in a pounding fashion to an audience that’s about to forget him all over again.

Which isn’t to say The Power of Sound is dull; these 10 admirably direct tunes have plenty of muscle and rock with an eager conviction. But while the sticker on the jewel case might assert the theory that they rise to the level of “classic songwriting,” the affair is more rote than classic. Opener “Let Me Out” sets the tone for what follows. An aggressive and rousing number, it had me singing along throughout the rest of my Saturday morning routine. Unfortunately the song I was humming turned out to be “This is It” from Ryan Adams, an indication of the generic appeal of Polonsky’s music. The slowburners “Shitstorm” and “How Much Do You Know?” are more melodically interesting, and the riffing on “Where the Signs End” is potent, but these tunes still fail to gain a foothold on the song-obsessed portion of the brain before falling back into oblivion.

Jonny Polonsky might be better off involved with a band; the demand of being the sole creative force here seems a bit more than he’s cut out for. His meager CV would seem to attest to that as well. If he does decide to wait another five to 10 years to follow up The Power of Sound, don’t expect me to be waiting.