Poi Dog Pondering
Following the old Smucker’s theory, a band with a name like Poi Dog Pondering ought to be good. Too bad the debut disk by this Austin-based combo isn’t as consistent as ajar of jelly.
On the bright side, PDP reaches a new peak of ingenuity when it comes to exploiting the late ’80s trend of using unexpected instruments to make pop music. A tin whistle, mandolin, recorder, flugelhorn, cello, wood blocks and, yes, even a frying pan add a fresh, bright sound to folk-pop arrangements. The numerous instruments also allow the band to skip through varied musical styles, at one minute sounding like an Irish pub band, then switching to lofty art rock or a jokey mix of Hawaiian luau music and jazz. Too bad this firm foundation supports a rickety surface structure. Bland lyrics fail to catch a listener’s attention, and lead singer Frank Orrall doesn’t help much, projecting little emotion or personality. Culled from two EPs released on an independent label, the album lacks spunk. Maybe a big-time producer could extract more charisma from the band. For now, Poi Dog Pondering doesn’t live up to the promise of its quirky moniker. (Columbia)