[17 August 2009]
On his 2006 eponymous debut as the Oxygen Ponies, Paul Megna delivered an autobiographical album of “intoxicating bedroom pop” (initially recorded in a barn on an answer machine) that found the Brookyln-based singer/songwriter in a state of melancholic reflection. But then, the former actor-turned-pig-nanny had a lot of personal stuff to sort out—like getting shot in the neck by a sniper on the way to a play rehearsal in Hell’s Kitchen, saving his ex-girlfriend’s life when she attempted to commit suicide and figuring out what to do with that black Fender guitar gifted to him by Jeff Buckley. Now, with the personal catharsis apparently done and dusted, stripped-down intimate introspection gives way to outward-looking bursts of melodic despair on Megna’s follow-up Harmony Handgrenade, as the singer, with help from an array of friends, vents his spleen on far-reaching societal issues, among them U.S. foreign policy and corporate greed. Like candy-coated stones thrown at the black heart of Uncle Sam, sardonic protest songs such as “Fevered Cyclone”, “The War Is Over” and the magical, Beatles-esque title-track swathe its sincere sentiments in thrumming power-pop chords, sublime female backing vocals and joyful bursts of brass and shimmering strings. If there is a downside to these beautiful yet poignant songs, it’s that these vitriolic messages of disenchantment may soon become dated—hopefully, very soon.