October 01, 2004


Jonny Polonsky.jpg

Jonny Polonsky charts a new sonic course

Singer-songwriter and multi-tasking rocker Jonny Polonsky moved from Chicago to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, hoping for a career boost. As he found out during August in his new city, you never know when you're just a celebrity traffic jam away from some high-profile exposure.

"It was a benefit show for the Axis of Justice Foundation," Polonsky recalled. "I was guitar-teching for Tom Morello [of Audioslave] for that show. Flea [of the Red Hot Chili Peppers] was supposed to play bass on one of the songs, but he forgot what time the show was and got stuck in traffic, so I ended up playing bass on some of the songs.

"I also played keyboards on one song," he added, "but that was planned."

Ah, but who needs plans anyway? If anyone knows that a music career need not adhere to a conventional blueprint, it is Polonsky. His big break came in the mid-1990s when he was introduced to Frank Black.

The Pixies' frontman produced Polonsky's demo and helped him get signed to noted producer Rick Rubin's American Recordings, which released his debut, 1996's Hi My Name Is Jonny, a spirited slice of infectious power pop.

He continued to plug away, releasing a one-off EP (There Is Something Wrong With You) on the L.A. indie label Eggbert Records in 2001, touring as a sideman with other acts (Local H, April March, Carla Werner) and most recently working on and off for Audioslave and for Rubin.

Late last month, Polonsky finally released his second full-length album, The Power of Sound, on Seattle-based label Loveless Records, some eight years after his first album.

It's no wonder Polonsky has taken to calling it his "second debut."

"It's been so long since I released my first record that this feels like the first time, if I may quote Foreigner so blithely," he said.

It's a fresh start sonically speaking as well. As the title suggests, The Power of Sound boasts Polonsky's heaviest material to date. There still are hooks aplenty, but the harmonies are no longer at the forefront so much as dense layers of guitars and keyboards, plus ear-splitting drums -- as on leadoff track "Let Me Out," which finds Polonsky and Co. blasting right out of the box. There are arrangements that go from a slow build to a crashing crescendo ("Calling All Babies") and even some heavy metal leanings, such as "Where the Signs End," which is centered on a riff straight out of Led Zeppelin.

The album is not all bombast, though; there also is the stark acoustic ballad "All This Freezing," one of the record's strongest songs, and the tender mid-tempo pop of "Much Love."

"I like to push myself to try new things, write in new ways, make new sounds," Polonsky said. "I was pretty conscious of making things swing that way. I didn't know exactly how I was hoping it would sound, but I definitely wanted to step up the energy a notch or three."

With the energy and volume levels cranked up sufficiently, the only question now is whether Polonsky's new noise will be heard above the din of all the A-listers in Los Angeles.

"I'm really excited about this new record," he said. "It's an interesting time for me right now; things are changing rapidly and we'll see what happens."

-- By George Henn

Posted by medleyville at October 1, 2004 08:32 PM