Mark Cullen, the creative force behind Pony Club, releases his debut album Home Truths. It’s a decent enough effort from the Irish songsmith, if a little erratic in some places and will surely help to put him on the map as far as self-produced tuneful rock goes.
The album opens with a mirage of psychedelic bells which fuses into the first tune, Fuck With My Heart, a pleasant, post-pop, illusory number. Heavy on hooks and cleverly-crafted beats, the tune is an excellent opener, mixing rock nuances and misty yet sonorous production. Next up is the Primal Scream-meets-punk psyche of CCTV, an original sound, yet sadly lacking direction and substance.
However things improve again with Cullen’s inventive take on ’90s Britpop in Stop, one of the album’s defining moments. He evokes emotion and majesty from a minimal acoustic guitar-driven tune whilst blending soulful strings and a memorable chorus.
The piano balladeering of Single is similarly an emotive poppy tune, picking up where The Supernaturals left off but also adding a certain quirkiness. Cullen’s simple lyrics sound triumphant behind the gentle pop backdrop and when the beat drops in, the tune shifts forward another gear.
Millions Like Us starts off with a short-lived psychedelic intro but soon merges into Blur-tinged territory, a catchy tune blending keyboard and dreamy strings. The upbeat ’60s theme continues with Home Is So Bad, a tune starting with a swirling electric piano, saxophone and electric guitar which blends the commerciality of Pulp with the experimentalism of Beck. It has some promising ideas but unfortunately never really goes anywhere and sounds a bit lacklustre up against some of the other tracks.
The David Bowie-meets-The Divine Comedy intro on Tenderness is a blessing and the result is one of the album’s more touching and expressive moments, against a memorable backdrop. The album’s closer, Afternoon Drinking, starts dreamy and bell-like, mixing keyboards and military drumbeats against a memorable tune. It’s a rather downbeat ending to the sometimes uplifting album but the finale of hazy instrumentation and smoky vocals ensures a memorable closure.
Pony Club has essentially taken a more innovative approach to the memorable Britpop of yesteryear and, credit to him, he’s crafted some considered and catchy tunes. Despite sometimes sticking a bit too closely to the sound of Suede, Blur and Pulp, he’s produced a refreshing album.