Music: New Young Pony Club * * * *
The Optimist (The Numbers)
An inevitable by-product of releasing a critically acclaimed debut album is the weight of expectation that awaits its follow-up. Consequently, the recording sessions for a new album can be fraught with difficulty.
New Young Pony Club apparently scrapped an album of new material a year ago as they sought to build on the promise shown by the Mercury-nominated Fantastic Playroom -- a record that took new wave and nu rave into exciting territory. The sessions were, in the words of guitarist and solo male member Andy Spence, "like cutting my own guts out".
But a change of studio proved to be the catalyst that helped the creative juices to flow again. And flow they certainly have. Over the course of 10 short tracks, The Optimist crackles with ideas and innovation. It's music for the head and the feet.
New Order provide much of the inspiration, not least in the meaty bass-lines. But there's also something of New Order's marriage of daring and chart-baiting, of art and commerce. Here is a band who are 'indie' in the old-fashioned sense of the word -- the album is self-released -- but also are not afraid to embrace the sort of pure pop beloved of those songwriters-for-hire, Xenomania.
This is evident from the opening track, the synth-led Lost a Girl, which features typically forthright lyrics and a memorable vocal from Tahita Bulmer, the band's principal songwriter and focal point.
How much would Sugababes (reviewed on the opposite page) love to have a song as potent as Chaos on their new album? If this song doesn't rip up every dancefloor in the land, I don't know what will.
The mood is considerably darker than the first -- listen to the brooding Rapture, a deceptively cheerful tune that finds Bulmer singing about smiling on the outside while your private world falls apart.
The quality control is high throughout and surprisingly, considering its long gestation, most of the songs aren't overegged. There's a striking sparseness to the material and the songs boast the sort of clean production that New Order -- them again -- helped popularise a quarter of a century ago.
New Young Pony Club play Cork's Cyprus Avenue on Thursday and Dublin's Tripod tomorrow week, and this excellent album should help pack in the punters.
Burn it: Lost a Girl; Chaos; Rapture