CD Review of 7 by Poi Dog Pondering
Recommended if you like
Judybats, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Waterboys
Label
Platetectonic Music
Poi Dog Pondering: 7

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

T
rying to get a handle on Poi Dog Pondering’s ever-shifting sound has always been something of a challenge throughout their 20+ year career, a scenario that certainly hasn’t helped in terms of solidifying their following. In many ways, this is the product of their own doing; from the beginning, their music has been an eclectic, genre-defying blend of rock, world music, folk and fusion, the type of blend which ensures that each new album poses different possibilities, spinning the heads of critics, devotees and even their record company early on. While few are inclined to sympathize with a major label’s decision to drop one of its charges, it’s easy to understand how Columbia was confused and consternated by the band’s submissions; indeed, after two years of disagreement over direction, the group was eventually dropped and forced on hiatus.

Fortunately, though, Poi Dog Pondering had accumulated enough of a following to create some anticipation for their comeback, which came via 1995’s Pomegranate, an album that reflected an even wider view in terms of their musical mantra. However, instead of trying to focus their approach, they deliberately digressed. The initiation of their own label, Platectonic Music, led to a number of splinter projects – albums bearing remixes, live material and off-kilter electronica.

The new album, 7, makes a modest attempt to reconcile their diverse stylistic threads, and while it hardly holds together as a unified piece of work, it is easier to absorb than their other more recent efforts. They retrace some familiar terrain – easy, amiable folk-like fare (“Perfect Music,” “Space Dust”), rousing ‘70s soul (“Rusted Weather,” “Baby Together,” “Sticky”), anthemic rockers (“From This Moment On,” “Super Tarana”) and occasional moments of quiet contemplation (“In Comes the Night,” “Butterflies”). The assortment of styles is striking, and while the drastic changes from track to track can be jarring, to the say the least, the band’s ability to effortlessly transition from one template to another shows a remarkable agility. In a certain sense, 7 is Poi Dog Pondering’s White Album, at least in terms of ambition and intent.

Even so, it’s unlikely that 7 will bring the band that wider recognition so essential to their forward momentum. Despite its plethora of terrific melodies, its incongruity makes them difficult to typecast, an otherwise crucial element in attaining wider recognition. Still, if they can attract some newcomers with an ear for adventure, 7 could prove to be Poi Dog Pondering’s lucky number.

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