Picks and Pans Review: Wishing Like a Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea
There's nothing wrong with being sincere, sweet and cute. Yet these qualities, without the spark of ingenuity, qualify a band more for charity work than for recording a pop album. Despite several songs that express an exuberant love of life, this second major-label release by Poi Dog Pondering is a dud. The Austin, Texas-based octet launched a tidal wave of hype with its previous album, perhaps because people liked the sound of the band's nonsensical moniker. Now Poi Dog's rep threatens to haunt them.
The music, sounding similar to Jimmy Buffett on near-beer instead of margaritas, labors to be easygoing. Lead singer Frank Orrall, an ex-resident of the 50th state, tries to enliven some of the folk-rock tunes with a Hawaiian punch. As a result, many songs start to resemble a pu pu platter of jokey musical effects, adorned with the sound of tap dancing or an orchestra tuning up. When Orrall drops his usual laid-back mode to croon with conviction, the lyrics (he writes most of the band's material) never rise above the level of fortune-cookie homilies. "This big world is for everyone," he sings, as if someone other than Leona Helmsley might find this surprising.
The inoffensive single "U Li La Lu" wants to be an "O-bla-di, O-bla-da" for the '90s, but lacking irony, it flounders in the nudge-wink style of McCartney's lesser solo inventions. A song like this might work magic when the Poi Dogs perform on street corners, as is their habit. It just isn't strong enough to justify asking record buyers to throw money too. (CBS)