Popping up amidst the nu-rave set in 2006, New Young Pony Club found themselves compartmentalised with their contemporaries despite their varied influences creating a curious reggae-tinged, post-punk pop. Their biggest hit from the time was arguably ‘Ice Cream’, a schoolyard chanting, cheeky little number that encapsulated the playful, mischievous side to the band.
Shortlisted for the 2007 Mercury Award prize, Fantastic Playroom, found itself showered with praise and so the follow-up was always going to be eagerly awaited. Difficult second album syndrome however seems not to have been an issue. Distancing themselves from the nu-rave tag, NYPC have returned with a mature piece of work, a sign of their growth. Self-produced, self-funded and self-released, The Optimist is much darker than their previous effort and the feeling is anything but upbeat.
From the off, ‘Lost A Girl’, shows an obvious desire to cast away previous preconceptions and display the new, adult direction the band have chosen. From the warm synth intro to the resonating bass and unstable dissonance of the vocals, it’s far from the innuendo-splattered lightness of what has come before.
‘Now we’ve had our fill and our glass is empty,’ sings Tahita Bulmer in title track, ‘The Optimist’ – a brooding, clinical ode to disappointment and disillusionment.
It’s not a complete departure, of course. This is still New Young Pony Club albeit with hints of Siouxsie Sioux (‘Before the Light’), PJ-Harvey (in melodic, oscillating ballad, ‘Stone’) and LCD Soundsystem. Highly synth driven, Tahita Bulmer’s distinct voice still propels the songs but there is a dark discontent of melancholy interwoven in the music and a lyrical openness not seen in the debut.
Laced with a resigned calmness and empty weariness, the collection of gothic, bass-heavy pop isn’t perfect but it bodes well for future NYPC creations. Here is a band keen to prove they’re no one trick pony but a deeper, more complex animal altogether.