New Young Pony Club
espite all the massed proclamations of New Young Pony Club’s verve, charisma, and cool, on record they sound bored, listless, and uninterested. It’s a studied ennui, the “I’m too cool for what I’m doing” stance that’s been watered down and refracted a billion times since James Dean’s face went through his windshield, and you can hear it in every syllable of Tahita Bulmer’s indolent vocals, whether she’s urging you to “dip your dipper” or babbling nonsense about “laminating your mind.” The last time people in nightclubs dressed and acted like NYPC was twenty years ago. It was the moment that British property prices and cocaine usage last peaked in unison with hideous fashion and vacuous music. Remember the fallout from that? Getting dolled-up and fucked-up to some cheesy fashionista music seems less appealing if you do.
Throughout Fantastic Playroom NYPC check off trendy sonic influences with all the dispassionate efficacy of an auditor—Bowie, New Order, the Rapture—but none of the actual substance of these forebears is present, not even in trace amounts. New Order’s songs, as simple as the best ones may be, were shot through with a sense of mournful, wistful melancholy that gave them heart as well as style, something songs like “The Jerk” and “The Get Go,” seemingly titled after non-existent dance trends, don’t even aspire to. Co-opting a synth sound or half a melody doesn’t imbue you with the quality that compels people to play your songs at times other than when they’re out of it and kicking up a disco shit, and co-option is all NYPC seem able to manage; homage or even pastiche are beyond them.
I’m just not sure why anyone other than kids too busy posing for camera-phone pictures they can load onto Facebook the next morning would listen to this. “Ice Cream” offers a moderately contagious beat but works best as an incidental TV ad jingle, melting away if the heat of attention is focused on it. That recent single “The Bomb” bombed just provides more evidence that though hipster kids might dance to this shit, they sure as hell ain’t gonna buy it.
Because when Gogol Bordello do something more exciting by factoring in not only superior tunes but also something to say; when Bonde Do Role make you dance with a genuine thrill of the exotic and a better set of beats to boot; when LCD Soundsystem add a hefty amount of real human emotion to their dancing; when !!! push the outlandish sonics and strung-out grooves into the psychedelic, is there any point in New Young Pony Club’s blurred, forced eclecticism and faux-energy? Music’s important. New Young Pony Club claim they can give us what we want, but they haven’t got a clue what we need.