Cleaver remains one of this country's most potent and talented songwriters. His word play can encompass hazily obscure metaphors or pop culture benchmarks, as though he were intent on becoming a rock-lyricist answer to comedian Dennis Miller. His allusion to actor John Carradine in "Kung Fu Reference" is surpassed only by his love-as-fast-food comparison in "Only," which is outdone by the hillbilly freak show of "Baby in a Jar" and the classic rock ass-kick of "Butterfly."
Cleaver and co-guitarist Bill Alletzhauser create a shifting sonic quilt that's as much a reaction to Americana as it is an expansion of it. The rhythm section of bassist Randy Cheek and drummer Dave Morrison makes whatever big rock noise is needed, from a pounding foundation to a slippery element that co-exists with the arrangement more than it grounds it. This very fluid approach means that Ass Ponys rarely make the same sound twice on any album, and while that might play hell with radio programmers, it suits Chuck Cleaver and his wild Ponys just fine.