On the release of their 2007 debut Fantastic Playroom, New Young Pony Club were lumped into a Nu-Rave movement into which they didn’t really fit. With the follow-up The Optimist, disco is out and their carefree pop has given way to a darker, more solemn feel. They pull it off pretty well, turning in an album that, if anything, sounds more natural than their debut.
Clues ahead of release suggested the onset of a new direction. While it’s undeniable that their sound has developed, it’s still instantly recognisable as theirs. As soon as the bass on opener Lost A Girl twangs the album into life, there’s no mistaking that it is a New Young Pony Club song. And Chaos could be The Bomb Mk 2.
But with nods to Siouxsie Sioux on the excellent title track and to Toni Halliday on Before The Light, it’s all gone post-punk goth with a pop ethic. Curve now seem to be the band that New Young Pony Club aspire to be. Criminally ignored in the early ’90s, the handling of their style with a lighter touch might bring more attention to their dark, brooding sound.
The Optimist sounds like the output of a band that wants to distance itself from their already established identity. The songs on Fantastic Playroom were blunt objects that didn’t lend themselves well to depth or subtlety; simply put, they’d have an idea and they’d put it into practice, often with some success. By contrast, this whole album holds together in a way that their debut didn’t. It’s a bold step forward that commands respect and suggests that they may have some longevity.
Yet this new material misses the magic sparkle of The Bomb or of Ice Cream, the two tracks that really cemented the band in the public’s consciousness. Without those weapons at hand, it’s difficult to see how they’ll make the same kind of impact second time around.