Pony express

Fri, Nov 14, 2008, 00:00

CD Choice: Daragh Downesreviews the latest album from Dublin band Pony Club

A couple of years back a certain UK band discovered that an established Dublin act had prior claim to their name. Said UK band promptly "solved" this problem by sticking on the prefix "New Young".

After this act of adjectival one-upmanship, New Young Pony Club went on to become darlings of the NME-sponsored nu rave scene. The Irish targets of their sneering prefix, meanwhile, seemed destined to languish in a no-man's-land of confusion and compromised name recognition. Thankfully, Pony Club have held their nerve. Their third album, a gorgeously layered electro-indie collection kept honest by frontman and lyricist Mark Cullen's unhoneyed angst, is their strongest yet.

If 2004's Family Business marked a slight dip in quality control from 2002's Home Truths, then Post Romantic more than makes amends. We're talking 12 clear wins here for the game of music, and not a dud in sight.

It takes guts to release a song as self-damning as To Tell the Truth, but exceptional ears to come up with the startling chord sequence that takes that song's chorus to a different place. It takes smarts to deploy a metaphor as pointed as "A stigmata's been performed/In a Belfast pub" (Diplomat), but mischief to precede it with "You're annoyed/Cause you have to work" - that last word teasing us with the rhyme-driven expectation that the stigmata will be performed in a Belfast church. It takes heart to venture a symphonic coda as moving as the child's flashback in In Your Dreams, but emotional intelligence to switch suddenly in the dying seconds to a melancholy conversation between bass and delayed low-end guitar.

And did I mention that the tunes themselves are great? Or that Cullen's voice has matured into a thing of nicotine-stained beauty? Or that it won't be very long before those nice Choice Music Prize people are going to have to start worrying about which albums to put on their shortlist for 2008? www.ponyclub.tv

Download tracks: Diplomat, In Your Dreams