There are many good and bad things about about the internet. One one hand, it has completely changed the world… On the other hand… it has completely changed the world. Many worlds… It has changed the way we communicate… or don’t. It has changed the way we talk to each other… or don’t. And it has changed the way we get and listen to music. And we do.
The internet is an embarrassment of riches, though those riches do not always make it to the artists who deserve them. The fact that I can listen to anything I want, whenever I want is an amazing thing. But the fact that there is so much music out there, can also make it hard to find things. Not that I was ever a musician… well, okay, I play a pretty mean harmonica, actually… but I have not made a record of me solo doing that…
But I do miss the days of the mix tape… the days when artists pounded the pavement and handed their tapes to anyone who would listen. This is how Jonny Polonsky made his way through the Chicago music scene. And like his guitar playing, he went balls to the wall. If you have never seen him live, do it. He plays with a passion and fury that is filled with joy. He is just one of of those guys who truly leaves a pint of blood… and sweat on the stage. Amazing! I had the pleasure of seeing him at the Hotel Cafe last year and the show kicked ass. He is also one of those bastards that plays a gazillion instruments! And plays them all well… Jerk! 😉
In January of 2018 he released a new record, Fresh Flesh, which was reviewed here. This eighth solo release is great and I highly recommend seeking it out. Actually, you should seek out all his stuff . And the fact that he can now publish a 21-track demos and rarities album is remarkable… remarkable because Unreleashed: Demos And Rarities has songs that other artists would love to have as their main tracks.
I love Jonny’s quote on the impetus for doing this record:
“About six months ago, the thought occurred to me that I should release a greatest hits record.
Which is, of course, ridiculous because I don’t have any hits. But the idea quickly morphed into
a compilation record of all the best songs from the last 20 years that I never put on a record.
That idea sounded exciting to me.”
The opening track, “Everywhere All The Time” sets the tone and has become one of my favorite songs of his. It is so listenable on its own, but then there is also a whole other deeper element
“That song was actually written and recorded around 2007, but I feel like it really describes the chaotic, divisive, mean spiritedness that permeates so much of our daily lives right now. ‘You’re everywhere all the time, but nobody sees you there.’ People talk a lot about being one human family and loving and accepting one another, despite our superficial differences in beliefs or appearances. But we still have a long way to go. I personally feel hopeful and optimistic about humanity, but I had to vent my frustration and pain about this all-too-frequently cruel and insane world.”
Many of the tracks are Power Pop at its best, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know the special place Power Pop holds in my musical heart. Jonny is often compared to, or at least placed in the same esteemed group as, Pete Yorn, Ryan Adams and Frank Black. Clearly Frank has had a major influence, as he was not only Jonny’s idol, but also wound up becoming a fan, helping to set him up with a record deal AND producing that amazing debut album, Hi My Name Is Jonny! According to AllMusic, Black (the lead singer of the Alt Rock band the Pixies) has “produced prolific amounts of quirky, intelligent rock music.” That is a good description of Jonny’s music… a mix of Power Pop, Post Punk and Alternative Rock. Or for me… wheelhouse, wheelhouse, wheelhouse.
Enjoy a little ’90s flashback here.
Some of my favorite tracks are the aforementioned opener, and the killer “The Same Song,” which I need to write a movie for! According to Jonny, ‘The Same Song’ is something I had kicking around for years, but only ended up finishing when I first moved to LA. I had met Lyle Workman when he was playing in Frank Black’s band,
and Lyle co-produced the track.”
On a side note, Lyle seems to be on fire these days, composing music for film and TV, including a lot of work for Judd Apatow’s shows and projects like HBO’s “Crashing.” He has also played on some of my favorite records like Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk, Todd Rundgren’s Nearly Human and 2nd Wind and Beck’s Midnight Vultures.
I also dig “Amazed” and “See Your Around,” and I especially love the lyric “After the fight comes new beginnings.” And that’s the thing about Jonny… you can listen to the music and enjoy it as is, and this album is a true joy from start to finish… or you can delve deeper and get into the lyrics which range from fun and quirky to deeply moving and insightful.
Jonny Polonsky may be flying under the radar for some of you, but the music is speeding at the sound of rock. Give it a listen. Get to a show. And with all the music that is out there, make sure great artists like Jonny don’t pass you by.