Orville Peck: Pony review – Mask slips on tiresome country pastiche
There aren’t many self-proclaimed masked cowboys in contemporary country music, even though Orville Peck looks more like a knock-off Zorro with a weird fringe. This is certainly not the kind of act you’d expect to get signed to the prestigious Seattle label, which is best known as an early incubator of grunge.
Orville Peck’s debut isn’t traditional country in any conventional sense, as he blends elements of shoegaze and alternative guitar pop. There are some lovely elements of pedal steel, which is surely one of the most soothing sounds in the world, on the opening track and lead single Dead of the Night, a torch song about two hustlers travelling through the Nevada desert. It’s a pleasing if unremarkable statement of intent, before most of the rest of the album teeters into novelty act territory.
Buffalo Run is much better, a moody, atmospheric and propulsive tune that shows off the kernel of a fresh and original sound, but Pony falls down with the sheer weight of its cliches. Queen of the Rodeo is so pastiche it sounds like a deeply unfunny attempt at a comedy song, and the whistling during Take You Back is another step way too far.
Orville Peck has his moments, but drowns them in a questionable alter ego, which renders some songs unlistenable.