Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Listen: Tired Pony, The Place We Ran From

Tired Pony is a supergroup. There's no getting around it, no matter how subtle or supple the music on this disc is. The band includes Gary Lightbody, guiding light of Snow Patrol; Peter Buck, guitarist for R.E.M.; Richard Colburn, drummer for Belle and Sebastian; and indie-pop stalwarts Scott McCaughey, Jacknife Lee and Iain Archer. They even enlisted M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, also known as She and Him, to provide guitar and vocals. No fighting it. This is a supergroup.

But the album. The Place We Ran From, is anything but a bloated supergroup project. It's a medium-length album of medium-paced tunes with wonderful lyrics, and it's clear from the first listen that Lightbody is the dominant musical force here. The songs are very simple, set to repetitive guitar strums, and the whole thing plays like a quieter Snow Patrol effort. But you can hear the contributions of Lightbody's bandmates loud and clear here too, particularly Buck, whose guitar accents are unmistakable.

I like this album about as much as I like the average Snow Patrol record. It's nothing special, and the songs don't stick with me - they all kind of blend together into a quarter-note-strummed dirge - but while it's playing, I enjoy it. The final track, "Pieces," is my favorite, at least partially for its noisy, ambient ending, and "Dead American Writers" has a terrific guitar part. But on the whole, Tired Pony didn't set my world on fire. It's almost an anti-supergroup record, so unassuming that it fades into nothing while you're listening to it.

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