Tuesday, October 1, 2019

My Little Ponies, You Opened Up My Eyes

It's Tunesday. Let's have some tunes!

A few years back, as I was ferretting about down the back of YouTube for pennies, I tried using the names of animals or colors or textures as keywords to find unfamiliar bands and songs. It was like planting semi-random seeds to see what would come up.

I grew a jungle. Certain animals - fox, cat , rabbit - sent tendrils creeping in all directions. Silk, velvet, satin. Almost any color. A cornucopia of pleasureable exposure to novelty and wonder.
  • Sidebar: there is - or more likely was -  a band called "Fox Cat Rabbit". Not all that interesting apart from the name but they do have one good number, raised to another level by a mood-elevating video.
After a while I began to notice a trend: bands with "Pony" in their name tended to be worth a listen. From memory, it was New Young Pony Club, the oft-reviled darlings of the short-lived noughties nu-rave scene, who clinched it for me.

I like just about everything I've heard by NYPC. They make fine videos but they really shine in the live clips I've seen. They have that bleak edge that turns dance music so deliciously, astringently, sour. I especially like Tahita Bulmer's oddly off-kilter vocals but the post-punk rhythms are a draw, too.

New Young Pony Club is a truly magnificent name for a band. According to their Wikipedia entry, they would have been called just plain "Pony Club", which would have called to mind some kind of wistful C86 combo. Fortunately, an Irish band had already nabbed boring old "Pony Club" so NYPC added "New" and "Young", thereby taking the whole thing to an entirely new and stellar level. The power of happenstance at work there.
  • Sidebar: Pony Club, the Irish band, aren't terrible but they don't get into my Pony Club. This one, CCTV, reminds me of something I can't quite bring to mind. I think it's a tune by The Charlatans. PC do have that early 90s vibe about them.
If you're not really feeling the plain PC vibe or you're worrying there's not much "young" or "new" about you any more, there's another club for undersized horses you could try: Pink Pony Club. I think they might be from Malaysia. Or maybe Indonesia. This isn't such a great song but I do like the "oooh-wah-oooh" part and, like a lot of bands from that part of the world, they manage to make the same old, same old sound like they just heard it for the very first time.

If it was only about names, the superbly-monickered Pony Pony Run Run would be Blue Ribbon winners. Unfortunately they're a bit bland and somewhat uninteresting. I'm not even going to link them. Much better to go with Montreal's wonderful Pony Up, another superbly named band, only this time one with the attitude and songs to do their name justice.

I liked Pony Up so much I bought two CDs and a digital download. They have the insouciant charm and hidden claws of Tiger Trap or Angelica amid a gorgeously chaotic DIY tumble of a sound. Their later work takes a more serious tone, which I still like a lot but, as with Woody Allen, I do prefer the earlier, funnier stuff.

Possibly my favorite and certainly the funniest is "Heard You Got Action", for which I sadly can't find either a proper video or a live version. "Matthew Modine" is a close second but I'm saving that for a post I have in mind on songs about real people. "The Real Truth About Cats And Dogs (Is That They Die)" is kind of going to the other extreme but there's a stunning live version in the Triple-J studio so let's have that.

(I should also mention that, somewhat unbelievably, there are two bands called Pony Up, both of them four-strong, all-female acts. What are the chances, eh? Ours is the indie one; the other is country and I don't like them much. Or, indeed, at all). Moving on...

I don't know much about Coma Pony. Okay. I didn't know anything about them other than what I could glean from the video, until I did some research for this post. You'd think from this video that once again I'd chosen an all-female combo. I did think that. There's a lot of it going around and long may it continue. Coma Pony also have that instantly recognizeable bell-like guitar tone so prevalent in South American bands, so I pegged them for Argentinians.

  • Sidebar: Did you know that a "combo", as applied to musical bands or groups, means four people exactly? No more, no less. Or so Alan Johnson, ex-Labour Cabinet Minister turned nostalgia biographer and panel show guest believes. He's wrong, as it happens. The dictionary definition is "a small jazz, rock, or pop band". No specific number of players, just not a lot of them. Never believe a politician even when they're not talking about politics, I guess...
In fact, Coma Pony is four guys from Mexico. Don't believe everything you see in videos either.

Jetstream Pony really is the new normal for under-the-radar indie - three women and a token guy. The reverse of the punk line-up that shoved the industry doors open for female musicians by just a crack back in the late '70s. You can draw your own throughline.

They sound more 1986 than '76. There's that JAMC drone the Reid brothers stole borrowed from Can. What goes around... And "Had Enough" came out on a German label although the band are, almost inevitably, from Brighton.

  • Sidebar: There's a German band called "International Pony", who were, at one time, signed to Brighton-based Skint Records. The two are literally next to each other in my Pony file. Synchronicity or conspiracy? They're a bit... I'm not sure what. They like to dress up as superheroes. Well, don't we all?
Now, here's something that really shouldn't work. If I believed in guilty pleasures, which I don't, this would be the definition. Tired Pony is a supergroup in the grand old style, formed by someone from Snow Patrol (jeez...) and featuring members of R.E.M (Peter Buck, no less) and Belle and Sebastian (the drummer, who has also been implicated in Snow Patrol-related incidents in the past). 

As if that wasn't enough of a warning salvo, Zoe Deschenel had something to do with the "project" at one point and this performance features Minnie Driver on backing vocals (mostly going "wooo-aaah" which, as has been established, is something I am a sucker for). And it's on "Ellen", who gushes. 

And yet I still like it. Mostly it's that endlessly repeated "I will love you better than him" that does it. Another thing I'm a sucker for is that helpless, desolate, wounded, lost pride trope of which Lloyd Cole is the king. It's also the power of putting "pony" in your band name. Possibly.

That's probably enough pony for one post. 

Oh, hey, no! Wait! How could we finish without something from the most famous and celebrated ponies of them all?

The Shake-Ups in Ponyville are "a power-pop band dedicated to writing, recording and performing songs inspired by My Little Pony" and the weirdest thing about them is... they're pretty good! This is probably what you'd expect and they give the fans plenty of sort of sevice but they also rock! Well, kinda...

And with that I'm outta here. Giddy up. Giddy up a ding dong!

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