I was initially rather disappointed by this follow-up to the Ass Ponys' excellent 1994 album Electric Rock Music
, as The Known Universe
in many ways sounded a little too much like Electric Rock Music Pt II
, appearing to be made up of material perhaps left over from the 1994 sessions.
And even though that perception has shifted as a result of a dozen or so plays of The Known Universe
, it's still the case that some of the tracks here sound like rewrites of tracks from Electric Rock Music
, endowed as they are with the same melodic phrasing, similar vocal delivery, and overall presentation.
The result is that on the first few plays, certain tracks here had me mentally reconnecting with their opposite numbers on Electric Rock Music
. A case in point would be this album's closer "Some Kind of Fun", which has an introduction and vocal phrasing more-or-less identical to "Peanut '93" off Electric Rock Music
- it's essentially a rewrite with just the vocal slowed down a bit (which may be why it was placed 'out the back' as it were, at the end of The Known Universe
Though the above instance is probably the most severe example of the Ass Ponys plagiarising themselves, it is
a recurring issue with this album, where snatches of music tend to recall earlier material. But there again, if you weren't familiar with the earlier works, that wouldn't be a problem, and in that respect The Known Universe
as a stand-alone collection of tunes is pretty impressive.
Whilst the variety of musical ideas is less than on Electric Rock Music
, the lyrical themes are more 'mature' - frequently consisting of rather wry observations about death, from the perspective of country folk. In that respect, the album brings to mind Tom Waits' sinister lyric from "Murder in the Red Barn": 'cause there's nothin' strange about an axe with bloodstains in the barn - there's always some killin' you got to do around the farm ...
by Reviewer: bluemoon