Artist: Jonny Polonsky

Album: Intergalactic Messenger of Divine Light and Love

Can you imagine a halfway point between the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream? If so, you have a good musical imagination: well done! Also, you may have imagined something close to Jonny Polonsky’s Intergalactic Messenger of jonny_polonsky_divineDivine Light and Love. I mean the guitar tones (weighted a bit towards the Pumpkins’ thick-textured grandiosity, especially the fierce solos), the song structures (leaning nearer the Beatles’ compactness), the melodies (pretty equal). To some extent I mean Polonsky’s singing versus Lennon’s and Corgan’s, though he’s throatier than either, and only on See Your Lies does he master Corgan’s piercing whine. Perhaps my “halfway” remark even refers to quality, though that’s endlessly subjective: personally I’d rate Siamese Dream as “good”, Intergalactic Messenger of Divine Light and Love as “very good”, and Rubber Soul as “very, very good”. Also, here’s a more precise comparison for Polonsky’s album that should benefit, if  no one else, my mom: imagine Adam Schmitt’s World So Bright, with a heavier emphasis on the rock aspects. You’re welcome.

Some of the rock songs build tension through sparse, tense verses. Bearclaw‘s precise drumming plays hide and seek with a limber bass line, a whistling off-key synth line, and harsh squiggles of distorted guitar. Coming into Slaughter looks in outline like Live’s slow-burning but ultimately loud hits Lightning Crashes or White, Discussion, although Polonsky’s voice is higher, tighter, and more articulate than Ed Kowalczyk’s, and his guitar here takes on the richness (and chorus pedal) of Queen’s Brian May. All the Evil Things is punctuated with a huge, rousing synth/guitar riff, and its chorus (introduced with a firework display of drum fills) is big too, but otherwise it’s sung in a harsh whisper and an even lower harmony vocal over soft tip-tapping.

Then again, See Your Lies is an all-out rant and swaggering rocker Muse would approve of — as might John Lennon have, even if he never had the technology to make his tantrums sound that way. Ugly People Living in the Hole, fast and intense, replaces the swagger with extra drum bursts and sinister cooing. On the quieter end, Something to Believe in is an electrified folk-rock anthem (with a big flock of electric birds joining for the final minute), and Be My Brain has the hazy, punch-drunk country inflections of Mazzy Star or Giant Sand.

Album title aside, Jonny Polonsky‘s lyrics are vague but reasonable enough. Our corporations and political leaders teach us to want a world that isn’t what we need; we need to “bridge across the chasms of chaos, death, and fear … to get out of here, to rebuild our stately home, and deliver the promise from the night”. Billy Corgan would just scream “Let me out!”; John Lennon would imagine “the world will live as one”; Polonsky’s a bit more prone to asserting “All the world’s an aardvark/ sifting through the sand/ searching for the lost spark/ inside our pineal glands”. But they’d all agree that “Ugly people have more to prove than the rest of the world”. They’d all be talking about themselves, but they’d all be comfortable including me, and probably you. Polonsky proves himself with guitar solos; fair enough. What do you got?

– Brian Block

To see the rest of our favorites, visit our Favorite Albums of 2012 page!