Label: HIdden Target Recordings Release date: 19/05/09 Website: The Oxygen Ponies Website Harmony Hand Grenade opens in the fashion of a melancholy Leonard Cohen; yet as a whole though the album is fantastically varied and soulful. The Oxygen Ponies, it becomes increasingly clear throughout the album, manage to tie together a great combination of sounds, moods, and mini-narratives reminiscent of Cohen at his best without resorting to mimicking him. Megna’s voice is a little husky and carries a lovely timbre, reverberating through the full-bodied backing band. Frequently trailing off into little more than a whisper, Megna and The Oxygen Ponies offer up a thinly-veiled indictment of contemporary America, though it’s probably more accurate to say ‘of contemporary people’, in unique fashion. As a counterpoint, a wonderful, skewed optimism permeates the album and imbues it with real charm. For every lyric such as ‘The war is over, the heroes lost/cauterise the permafrost’ which do sound grim initially, there is a major shift never too far away; ‘If God had models of his best creations, you’d be on display.‘ Mid-album track Grab Yr Gun finishes with a semi-gospel crescendo, and is genuinely uplifting, and aptly proves the band’s versatility and imagination. Indeed, the instrumentation is very much accomplished; trumpets are used to great effect throughout, to complement the steady strum of guitars, and at times a melodic wall of sound carries the songs forward in a compelling manner. ‘Finger Trigger’ introduces crunching, distorted guitar and pounding drums, upping the ante on what is at times a meditative affair. The last three tracks of the album do return to the down-tempo dusty whispers of the opening track, and you’d be forgiven for being slightly impatient upon the opening strains of final track ‘A Bottle Marked The Enemy.‘ Thankfully, a raunchy chorus elevates the track out of end-album-quiet-song territory, proving a fitting full stop. The album is sexy and immediate, yet at times wistful. In many ways it could prove timeless. The Oxygen Ponies won’t leave you gasping for breath at their unprecedented musical audacity, but they will have you smiling broadly at just how individual each track sounds. Speaking of ‘time’, you’ll also notice how quickly the album seems to wrap up; and that is always a good sign. Rating: 8/10 MP3: The Oxygen Ponies on Pure Volume