Somebody needs to tell New Young Pony Club that the British dancey post-punk scene died several years ago, when Bloc Party released their dreadful third album. It seems the London five-piece didn’t receive the memo and aren’t aware that a lot has changed since they released their debut album, Fantastic Playroom, three years ago, when bands like the Klaxons were ruling the music world. Their latest album, The Optimist, clings to the wreckage of a scene that doesn’t exist right now and attempts to marry post-punk riffs with dancey synths, resulting in a superficial record that doesn’t exist below the surface.
Once you realize that most of The Optimist is recycled synth beats combined with jerky post-punk guitars, your mind begins to wander and focus on the lyrics of the album. Sadly, those do little to save the record, as lead singer Tahita Bulmer hasn’t seemed to graduate beyond the “singing about boys and girls” aspect of music. “I like you a lot / I guess I forgot / I don’t like you much now,” she sings on opening track “Lost a Girl,” setting the amateur lyrical tone for the remainder of the album. Bulmer delivers the worst lyric of the entire album on “We Want To”, telling the listener, “If I stink of frustration / it’s the perfume of excess / I think.” The same song contains a shouty chorus of “We want to / I don’t want to do any of this without you,” further underscoring the fact that New Young Pony Club were a more interesting band on their debut when they wrote songs like “Ice Cream” and didn’t take themselves so seriously.
Elsewhere on the album, handclaps and start-stop guitars brighten up “Chaos”. Bouncy keyboard melodies make “Dolls” another standout, but the lyrics once again take each song down a few notches, as “Chaos” asks the listener, “You got the instinct / tell me what’s the answer?” and “Dolls” wonders, “I thought I had a brain / I didn’t seem to have one.” If Bulmer wasn’t so concerned with writing a darker follow-up album, perhaps The Optimist wouldn’t be full of so many lyrical contradictions and bumbled metaphors.
As a whole, The Optimist is not an album for fans of New Young Pony Club’s debut who are looking for a fun dance record. In fact, there’s no fun to be had at all on this album. Bulmer’s trademark deadpan vocals fall flat, and each song sounds like a mocking version of the one before it. The Optimist is an album for people who don’t enjoy reading too far into their favorite songs or who don’t analyze lyrics and think deeply into melodies. There’s no way to really do that on this album. It’s a poor attempt at a follow-up album . The band is too caught up in being serious to even realize that there’s not a whole going on beneath the surface.
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