The Pons, In the Belly of a Giant
On In the Belly of a Giant, the appeal — for me, anyway — lies less in the music than in the overall feel of the thing. The music is good, don’t worry, but it’s the downbeat, serious moodiness that really gets me. Frontman (and principal songwriter) Thomas Mazzi is the culprit, I think; he sings songs that are big-S Serious, with Serious guys (and girls, too) rocking out Seriously about Serious things. No jokes, no goofiness, no half-assed attempts at being cute/clever; The Pons feel more like they play music because they need to, and not in a weepy, Emoboy way, but rather because they aim to shine a light on the struggles of everyday life.
There’s a strangely Up-era Peter Gabriel-esque thing going on here, partly thanks to Mazzi’s rough-edged but vulnerable vocals, and that lends to the seriousness, too. Of course, the music doesn’t follow that thread, instead ranging across pretty much any flavor of mid-’90s indie-rock you can think of. There’s the swaying, somber “Wherever You Are,” where Mazzi’s voice drifts over gentle, Wallflowers-ish rootsy indie-rock ’til partway through, when The Pons shift gears abruptly to throw on “chunky,” metallic-sounding guitars and hammering drums.
Then there’s the menacing, noisy, back-and-forth fire of “Giant,” which makes me think of vintage Silkworm with its distorted-but-not-dirty guitars, and similarly loud tracks “Blackhawk” and “Brace Yourself.” The latter is possibly the most head-up track on here, with a main riff that feels like the Beatles as covered by Hüsker Dü and vocals that sound at least okay with things, if not all-out cheerful.
On the quieter side, “Wake Up Call” is gorgeously jangly and morose, with a driving backbeat and a pastoral feel like Fountains of Wayne’s “Valley Winter Song.” “She’s the One” is bouncy and poppy but still heartbroken and down, while “Ripple To Wave” is light and atmospheric, riding some ridiculously splashy cymbals to fairly good effect. Closer “Peace On Earth,” naturally, also falls into the quiet/gentle category, a sweet, possibly Christmas-themed track that makes a cozy night bundled up on a couch sound like a very good thing.
It helps that Mazzi also knows his way around a hook — the songs are immediately familiar, demanding that you sing along with the chorus wherever it appears, and the melodies are insanely catchy, to the point where I found myself humming ‘em a week after I last listened to the CD.
Throughout, Mazzi barely cracks a smile, but still, it works. Giant reminds me of all the indie-rock bands I loved and adored a decade and a half or so ago, partly because of the overall unselfconscious solemnity to the songs, and that’s never a bad thing.