Jonny’s on the Spot
If necessity is the mother of invention, is restlessness the mother of reinvention? Chicago-born songwriter Jonny Polonsky started his career in the mid-’90s by sending his tapes filled with his raw rock to anyone and everyone, eventually catching the attention of Frank Black. Hi My Name is Jonny is as promising and honest a debut as one could ever hope to release. Over the years, Polonsky has been involved in a variety of projects, and his solo records have stretched farther and farther away from the wide-eyed youth who may have come a bit too late to make an impact. Perhaps he knows this, which is why his latest, The Other Side of Midnight, barely resembles power pop of his earlier work, but it also provides more focus than his latest efforts.
The synths that open the lead track, “Chip Away the Stone” slap you in the face simply by being synths — not drums, not guitars. Polonsky’s vocals come in with a breathy whisper and a falsetto in the chorus completes the mysterious trinity. But based on his previous work, you don’t know if this experimentation is for this song alone or if it will continue. “Lay Down Your Arms” is similar in mood, but its melody is more easily recognizable as one that could be reflective of classic pop/rock, perhaps even a little folky. On “Sunset Night,” the traditional instrumentation is encouraging, but the overall feel is similar to the other songs, which is a relief.
The Other Side of Midnight eschews the schizophrenia of 2012’s Intergalactic Messenger of Divine Light and Love. But the question with that album that wasn’t answered was, “Who is Jonny Polonsky?” With Midnight, we may have our answer: a talented songwriter with an extensive toolbox who has yet to match the proper ratchet with the bolt that fits. Artists like Ryan Adams and Connor Oberst have built credibility and earned faith from their fans, and that trust has given them the space to experiment. Polonsky has yet to cultivate that reward, and as a result this latest release appears self-indulgent, but on the right track.