Indie imprint In the Red has long been a haven for forward-looking garage bands too abrasive to receive invites to trendy parties. Recent signings, though, have been cool but similar variations on swampy blues punk.
So the Ponys are a breath of fresh air. While they're a surging, bashing reanimation of dark, early '80s pop punks like Swell Maps and Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, they're downright sprightly coming from In the Red. The leadoff track is a shuffling, sexy rocker that exhorts us to join in some suicide, so sly underpinnings do survive. But most of Laced With Romance is stuffed with tambourine-'n'-shaker-swelled swing, jangly guitar accents, farfisa organ, and lyrics about taking walks and seeing movies. Singer Jered emotes like a guy who spent his preteens crooning along to ABC, then throat-scuffing with PBR. Bassist Melissa takes the mic on a couple of tunes, adding some chanteuse-suave rarely heard in this genre.
Taken out of the context of its label, and given the sometimes obvious references, this might seem like just another filly in the garage-rock race. But it's one with legs that might last, once the derby is run.