February 22, 2010
Before being given a sneaky preview of New Young Pony Club‘s new album (due out March 8th) The Optimist, I’d have cowered at the idea of their new material forming the backbone of my listening habits for longer than 10 minutes. That’s not to say the debut Fantastic Playroom was insubstantial, more just temporary and self-imposedly limiting; its aping of the ’78-’81 was niche, sure, but more than that – it failed to whet the appetite for much more. And this contextual cherry-on-top adds even more fervour to Tahita Bulmer and her band’s charming comeback in a show where they fully free themselves from the restrained sound of yore.
The same can’t be said for support act Lyrebirds, who offer a defunct sub-Maccabees, Topman-shorn set that makes me reconsider my existence. It’s diluted and entirely unmemorable, even though it’s disguised in manic strobe lighting almost enough to let it slip by as the side show. Though at least it’s not as shonky as Chew Lips, fronted by Tigs, who pulls shapes from the air like a RADA drop-out. Mic-lead straddling attempts to overshadow the stasis, as the anonymous synth-plinking continues to stall. If it’s a parodial triteness, then even ‘watching’ with closed eyes isn‘t enough. While Chew Lips are ‘just’ having fun to their own music (praises be!), the package of nasal hiccups, monotonous hooks, dry melodies and Karen O mimicry form an irksome and colossal clunker.
New Young Pony Club eulogise my opinion on Chew Lips. The pace at which these glorious pop songs are flung out is dazzling, but not as dazzling as the truly striking contrast between their new and old material. Crowd-pleasers ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘Get Lucky’ are taut snatches of electro, sure, but it’s the let-go in the new material that brings the most joy. Thank whoever freed NYPC from their self-imposed restrictions, for they’ve blossomed into purveyors of truly blinding pop songs.
And the post-feminism at the forefront of their catwalk is no longer pinpointed by abstruse lyrics, instead something more touchable – emotion. Bulmer fuses these two distinct personalities into an all-dancing, starry stage-show, an idol less impossibly untouchable and more human; an instigator. The title track from the new album (‘The Optimist’) mixes Primary Colours-style swirling synths with reverby syncopation, parts dropping in and out before the song reaches a its soaring key change at the end. ‘Lost A Girl’ sees NYPC entirely drop the quasi-talky shtick, with their poster-girl Tahita Bulmer‘s vocals unafraid on top of glorious harmonies from Lou Hayter and Sarah Jones. ‘Chaos’ is a perfect bridge between old and new, with those familiar off-beat bass hooks set so tautly against the vocals.
PJ Harvey’s ‘Dress’ is covered excellently, shimmering, and the Metronomy-style plinks, twinkles and build ups on ‘We Want To’ glamourise the lead to the chorus just perfectly, through building textures and thicker harmonies. This is all without so much as a mention of ‘Ice Cream’, ‘Get Lucky’ and the forcibly snide “revolution in the bedroom” arrogance of ‘Hiding On The Staircase’ from Fantastic Playroom, which in spite of filling the room with familiar smiles, fails to power up to the next level like much of the material from The Optimist. It’s only on ‘Dolls’ that New Young Pony Club take a step backwards, the vocals possessing a smidgeon too much flatness in the verses to counter-balance the dirtier bass.
There’s some hesitance for the first few songs, sure, a few drum-beats hit slightly off-time, but it’s the first proper showing of the new material and a fantastical sample of just how this band have developed. And it’s telling that pre- the the leak of an album, the audience mostly comprises a younger demographic more interested in the clothing on-stage than the band’s incredible development. Surely not a sign of the future to come.