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

Pontiak: Innocence

The prolific Virginia power trio delivers an album stocked with enough potent guitar riffs to overcome a few less than inspired ballads.


Pontiak

Innocence

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2014-01-28
UK Release Date: 2014-01-27
Amazon
iTunes

Innocence, the new album by Virginia power trio Pontiak, stands as a reminder that no matter what new sonic territory pop music delves into, a good old-fashioned guitar riff can still kick all kinds of ass.

There are monster riffs galore on Innocence, the 10th studio release from brothers Jennings, Van and Lain Carney. These farm boy rock enthusiasts are experts at breathing raucous new life into well worn formulas. For proof, look no further than the album’s first three songs, which evoke multiple decades of sludgy guitar rock -- from Sabbath to the Stooges, Mudhoney to the Melvins -- without sounding derivative. The searing title track gets things started with a squall of feedback and a primal scream from vocalist Van Carney: “Waaaasted”! Next comes the album’s best track, “Lack Lustre Rush”. After some grimy fuzz guitar, the song kicks into gear with joyous hoots and a runaway-truck rhythm. Van’s vocals are great here, understated but also suggestive, maybe even menacing. When he purrs “Hey, wait a minute / Can’t you stay a minute”, you don’t know if he’s extending an invitation or issuing a subtle threat. “Ghosts” wraps up the opening trilogy with a crunching blast of psychedelic blues-metal that delivers one of the album’s most insistent riffs. These three songs are absolutely required listening for anyone who has ever felt compelled to blast rock music out of open car windows.

The brothers Carney clearly had more on their minds than riffage, though, when they made Innocence. A number of slower ballads appear here, sequenced to give listeners a break from the noise. There’s nothing wrong with a band exploring different moods and textures on an album, of course, but songs like “Noble Heads” and “Wildfires”, with their acoustic strumming and earnest vocals, as well as the organ-fueled “It’s the Greatest”, simply don’t measure up to the harder stuff. The songs are well-crafted, but they don’t have the same imaginative spark. As a result, sitting where they do on Innocence, they bring the record’s momentum to a frustrating halt and give it something of a split personality.

A few of the latter-half songs get things (mostly) back on track, including “Beings of the Rarest”, with its scorching, feedbacky guitar solo, and the pounding album closer “We’ve Got It Wrong”. The Carneys produced Innocence themselves, once again going Old School by eschewing the aid of computers, so the album has an inviting analog sound that serves the classic guitar-bass-drums setup well. Innocence is a solid record. The slower tracks feel out of place and disrupt the flow of the album, but the highlights, especially the opening tracks, are as good as anything Pontiak has done before. Intense guitar rock isn’t a new pleasure, but in the Carneys’ capable hands, it’s still a potent one.

6

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

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


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.