DISC REVIEW: Ponytail's 'Ice Cream Spiritual!'
Guitars are the new synthesizers. Or synthesizers are the new guitars. Whatever equation you use, the commutative property still applies: the six-string backlog and robotech future of pop music have effectively merged into a single monotone, midrange sonic I have eponymously dubbed the “blurzz”. From the halls of Justice to the studios of Boris, the ripsaw buzz is continuous. It sounds like an organ played through a Marshall half-stack played through a whale played through a tin can. Everyone loves it! When culled effectively, as it is by Baltimore’s burgeoning Ponytail, the blurzz makes you want to dance, eat, and pass out at roughly the same time.
Late of the art/culto incubator Wham City, this fierce quintet have expanded the palette on their sophomore album Ice Cream Spiritual (We Are Free, 2008), out 6/17, in what seems like a deranged, and mostly successful, attempt to turn the first 45 seconds of “Baba O’Reilly” into an entire LP of diabetic digi-punk.
There’s downtime here somewhere in the middle of the seven-minute “Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came From an Angel), or the interlud-y “Small Wevs”, but the cold-sweat jams this band concocts at its most pepped are less about dynamics, less about “songs,” than they are about the construction and sustenance of a blissfully color-soaked and anarchic high. Neck-bracing buildups, like the one found on opener “Beg Waves” constitute virtually half the album. Guitar duo Ken Seeno and Dustin Wong arpeggiate their complimentary licks around a centralized distort-o crunch while drummer Jeremy Hyman bolts a worldbeat bombast to the typical 4/4-core. Vocalist Molly Siegel is another story, whose wordless warble recalls the private histrionics of a professional bird-caller. These aren’t lyrics, but amplified forest chatter unwillingly urged into the bombast.
But therein lies the rub of the aforementioned blurzz. As much as Ponytail engages the white-dance datum of former associates Dan Deacon and Videohippos, theirs is a more naturally-obtained hallucination, eked out of wood and skin rather than screens and circuits. Ice Cream Spiritual!, ultimately, is testament to the sonic flexibility of rock’s roots, capable of catering to the ADHD drama of Generation Overload while remembering the analog origins of all party starting. The future of bust? These Ponies say “nay!”
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