No Show Ponies are one of a thousand Austin bands trying to find their place and their sound among the many live music venues across this Texas city. Breaking out of the pack here takes more than playing follow the leader, you have to have something new and do it very well. Anything less and Austin will be more than happy to let you scratch out a living playing a rotation of small time, beer swilling joints for as long as you can stand.
I should say now, that I have met the brothers Brown, Jeff and Ben. Jeff and I sat close to each other at one of those jobs you try to forget, the kind that sucks a bit of your soul every single time you step through the entrance. It is the kind of job you take when you are new in town and trying to get a band rolling. As I recall the brothers made their way from back east, Pennsylvania, I think.
Over time Jeff and I got to be friends or at least advanced acquaintances. I had a love of all things Hi-fi and lo and behold, Jeff had an EP he had never heard on a better system. It didn’t take long before I was spinning What am I to Do, one of three catchy tunes on the EP he handed me. That song still makes the playlist when we have guests, it is supremely earnest with an ear bug melody. I stopped at a coffee house with my wife not long after that to watch them live but never saw Jeff or his brother Ben again, at least not in person.
Since them I have made a point to follow them online to see what they were up to. I was excited to hear their first full-length album, The End of Feel Good Music, and then they just sort of vanished. For some time I thought they had decided to move on. I was surprised to see them booked at the Continental Club recently and thrilled to find out they had a new album coming out, A Manual for Defeat.
A Manual for Defeat is a continuation for the No Show Ponies and by that, I mean they are hard to pin down, to define, but they keep putting out catchy jams. Their Reverb Nation page says they sound like The Smiths, The Replacements, Lou Reed, The Police and The Clash. The No Show Ponies are more melodic than all but the Police and I can hear bits and pieces of each afore mentioned bands but they never sound like anyone else. Ben’s unique voice adds weight to certain vocals, he can do yearning as well as anyone I have heard.
The new album opens up with the stomping “The Rocks and the Cliff Above”, a catchy rocker that slides into “Only the Losers Know My Name” effortlessly. Most of the album rolls this way, even, catchy songs with noteworthy lyrics. I will leave it for you to mine the gems.
I will admit here that I was ready to write this album off after the first spin. Mojolists has a policy of dismissing any album or product we didn’t fall in love with and I did not see myself falling for this album, it just didn’t grab me at first. I will say I liked the notion of the song Bronson (Who’s Mad Now?) because I admire the man and the legend that is Bronson.
I put the album on a couple times over the next week, I never dismiss an album outright unless it is a boy band or the musician has their own venue in a Vegas casino. I am not sure how many times I listened to A Manual for Defeat but I suddenly caught myself humming “I’m Not Listening to the Radio Tonight.” At this point, I sat down, gave it another dedicated listen, and fell in love.
We have all had this experience with an album, I’m not sure where my disconnect was but it vanished quite suddenly. This album is well recorded and well mastered. The website says, “It is three-piece rock music recorded mostly live to tape. What you’ll hear on this album is the sound of a band in a room with minimum overdubs and minimum fussing about.”
I am thrilled to say there is no digital compression on this album, it is what every recording should be. To make things even better, the No Show Ponies offer A Manual for Defeat in lossless FLAC, be still my beating heart. After playing the album on my main system and through a few of my headphone rigs, I think I would recognize the room they recorded in because you can hear it in every song.
I don’t know what is in store for the band, I certainly wish them well, the album is superb, both the songwriting and recording is top notch. In truth I think these guys are simply not marketing themselves well. Hell, I am interested in them and still find it difficult to keep tabs on what they are doing. Get yourself someone who understand and embraces social media guys because it sure isn’t your music that is holding you back.
Listen to or purchase A Manual For Defeat here!