Juliana's Pony,
Total System Failure
(Rounder, 2000)

Total System Failure doesn't fit the mold of music typically reviewed at Rambles, but since the lead singer of Juliana's Pony is known for her folk-rock sound, we'll let that little detail slide.

Juliana Hatfield has a dark side. If you are into bands like Red Five and Magnapop, then Juliana's Pony will be right up your alley. Not quite metal, bordering on punk, Total System Failure is full of anger. It is loud, aggressive and occasionally spotted with a cuss word here or there. In fact, if you have listened to Juliana Hatfield's solo projects, you might think of this as her evil twin.

On first listen, Total System Failure sounds like random noise punctuated by unintelligible female screaming. But if you are in the right frame of mind, the groove kind of grabs you and some of the lyrics, while full of hate and loathing, are interesting to say the least. I can relate to "Road Wrath," in which Juliana rails against a "fat bastard" in a Porsche driving like an old lady in the passing lane. In fact, many of my friends have mentioned that I drive like someone thrice my age. In my own defense though, I am neither fat, nor do I own a Porsche.

Juliana does slow down and lowers her voice towards the end of the CD. In "Using You," she sings about choosing someone to be around only because she is cool by association to them. But, she admits that she knows the other individual is using her for something, too. In some songs, the lyrics are not complete enough to allow the listener to know the whole story. For example, in "Noblesse Oblige" I know she is forgiving the person she is singing to, but I have no idea what that person had done in the first place.

Juliana's Pony is fronted by Juliana Hatfield on guitars and vocals. The trio is rounded out by Zephan Courtney on drums and vocals, and Mikey Welsh on bass and vocals.

Juliana's Pony might not be what most readers of Rambles reviews are looking for. Total System Failure is not necessarily a failure. This hard rockin' CD is harsh, loud and obnoxious at times. But I imagine a few of you would be interested in Juliana Hatfield's alter-ego. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if some of you like this music better than her typical fare.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 22 June 2002

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