The Ass Ponys' utopian vision of rock 'n' roll suggests they never even heard of Nirvana. Despite the fact that the best years of their lives unfolded throughout the '90s (four albums' worth) and even included the obligatory indie-band-gets-signed-then-forgotten-by-major-label scenario, these cats sound straight outta '85. Here, they even pay homage to that bygone era with a sinewy, surfin'-on-kudzu instrumental tellingly titled "Love Tractor". And as with the underground Americana aesthetic back then, a lot of disparate styles unfold for the Ponys with an utter lack of marketplace calculation. There's thumping, anthemic boogie ("Swallow You Down"), spacey psychedelia ("Astronaut"), slide/organ-fueled Band-meets-Steve Earle roots-rock ("Magnus"), even glam-drenched powerpop ("X-tra Nipple", whose signature clarion guitar riff recalls the Plimsouls' "A Million Miles Away"). Blessed with an unerring sense of melody, not to mention the proverbial stop-on-a-dime rhythmic thrust, this band is as accessible as they come. The Ass Ponys additionally claim a unique signature by way of main man Chuck Cleaver's keening, fragile warble, which recalls, depending on your age, Rick Danko or Dave Matthews. As a songwriter, the detail-eyed Cleaver gives equal weight to life's little joys and disappointments, employing nuance and economy to great effect. For example, in the otherwise beautiful "Pretty As You Please", a big three-oh birthday celebration eventually gives way to an elaborately plotted suicide, while in "Kitten", an entire family's happiness, dysfunction and tragedy are hinted at in a mere two verses. A rare talent.