PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Oxygen Ponies: Exit Wounds

Returning with a third independently made album, Paul Megna's Oxygen Ponies offers an album high on introspection but low on engagement.


The Oxygen Ponies

Exit Wounds

Label: Hidden Target
US Release Date: 2011-05-18
UK Release Date: 2011-05-18
Amazon
iTunes

At first glance, Exit Wounds seems like a natural enough title for an earnest singer-songwriter's third LP; that Paul Megna of the Oxygen Ponies learned to play guitar in the aftermath of a shooting that left a bullet permanently lodged in his neck puts the phrase in an entirely different light. This somber and shaded record can be said to be concerned with the emotional equivalent of Megna's physical trauma -- that is, the trauma of the wound unhealed, the crisis unsolved. So subdued is Megna's expression of these concerns, however, that the album is left too inconsistently engaging to be enthusiastically recommended.

The Oxygen Ponies -- in which Rhode Island native Megna plays the role of writer, musician, producer, engineer and sole constant member -- have been releasing albums largely outside the mainstream since 2006. The last set of songs, 2009's Harmony Handgrenade, was infused with its creator's disillusionment with United States domestic and foreign policy. The righteous anger which fueled the songs conveniently compensated when the underlying architecture of melody and atmosphere began to wear thin. The result was a transitional record, built on grander and more organic arrangements than Megna had experimented with before. It seemed to bode well for future developments.

The newfound aversion to political songwriting displayed on Exit Wounds, however, has denied Megna his former safety net. The new album is quite transparently cast in the confessional singer-songwriter mold, which offers musicians a great deal not only in terms of emotional canvas but also in terms of compositional challenge. Nakedly documenting Megna's frequently unhappy affairs of the heart, the songs found on Exit Wounds too often expose cracks in the songwriting, which are exacerbated by the album's largely maudlin atmosphere and middling tempo.

No matter how delicately constructed their heavy atmosphere, and no matter how well-produced their soundscapes, songs like "Good Thing" and "I Don't Want Yr Love" are ultimately hamstrung by the languid ordinariness of their basic structure. Similarly, Megna's appealingly world-weary, rough-hewn voice cannot save "Hornet" from an erratic lyric weighed down by confusing mixed metaphors. Many of the basic parts from Harmony Handgrenade are present and correct, but, burdened by the emotional weight of his subjects, Megna seems to struggle to tame them or to produce from them anything more than their sum.

A trace of former glory is found in early track "Hope & Pray", which almost drowns Megna out with a bright guitar line in its engaging chorus. The song clips along at the slightly more energetic pace that much of the rest of the record cries out for. Instead, this is but a lone relief from the mid-tempo tyranny of the rest of the album, which lingers on for almost an hour.

When it at last fades away, Exit Wounds leaves the impression that the writing and recording of its songs were a tough but necessary experience for Megna, acting as a sort of cathartic self-therapy. Such introspective analysis can make for entertaining music, but deficiencies in songwriting and the unremittingly subdued tempo and tone prove to be fatal to that possibility in this case. Perhaps Megna might be better advised to return to more socio-political material next time around; his anger is simply more engaging than his sadness.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

20 Songs from the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.