Leave It To Cleaver

Showcasing singer Chuck Cleaver's unusual falsetto and idiosyncratic songwriting style, on Some Stupid With a Flare Gun Cincinnati's Ass Ponys strike a fine musical balance between soft balladeering and sardonic rock posturing.

Clearly the band knew what it was doing when it went down to Nashville to record this record. Though the album title references a line from Deep Purple's anthem "Smoke On the Water," Some Stupid With a Flare Gun is a countrified excursion into indie-rock that has very little in common with its namesake.

You can actually hear the crickets chirping on the album's opening track, "Pretty as You Please" (RealAudio excerpt), complete with Cleaver's hillbilly yodel and the band's offbeat instrumental work. "Astronaut" is a more conventional tune that features some aggressive guitar playing from the talented Bill Alletzhauser. Using lots of acoustic guitars on top of their traditional rock instrumentation, the Ass Ponys enter into the realm of cracked Americana with some truly distinctive results. On "Your Amazing Life" (RealAudio excerpt), sweet vocal harmonies and a lilting pedal steel guitar lend a simple, plaintive quality to Cleaver's poetic musings. Not surprisingly, characters in the song "Sidewinder" are simple country folk with simple but troublesome relationships.

While this record boasts plenty of rural influences, the Ass Ponys are still an aggressive rock band that can also pound out fierce tunes like "Swallow You Down" (RealAudio excerpt) and the humorous "X-tra Nipple." Whether singing about a robot fighter or just crooning about death on "Casper's Coming Home," Cleaver's voice remains a peculiar instrument that gives the Ass Ponys their singular sound.