Pony Up! is an all-female indie-pop quintet from Montreal. All-female. You got that? Because throughout their debut EP, that’s the main point the group drives home, over and over. “We are girls.” “We are in a band.” “We wrote these songs.” “Aren’t they clever?” “Aren’t we rad?”
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There’s not much that’s clever or rad about this EP. Juvenile? Sure. Embarrassing? Plenty. Catchy? At times, no question. But there’s just too much wrong with it to make it anything more than a semi-amusing one-time listen.
Or maybe it’s just me; I don’t know. But what am I supposed to think about a song called “Matthew Modine” where they use “We want to be your blow job queens” and “You give us creamy jeans” as rhymes? Not to mention the gem, “Your ass is like no other / It gets us hot and bothered.” If that makes you chuckle, then perhaps you’ll enjoy Pony Up! (By the way, it’s killing me to have to use that exclamation point in the band’s name each time I type it. But I guess if you’re going to be an obnoxiously precious band, you may as well go all the way.)
Although “Matthew Modine” is certainly the most obvious offender, almost all of the songs here all suffer from over-cuteness. Lines such as “My brother’s gonna beat you up,” “I am sorry that you’re stupid / I can’t be your fucking cupid,” or “Shut up and kiss me” (which is actually the name of the first track) take you right out of the song and conjure up images of the five ladies in Pony Up! giggling about that fact that Ben Lee was actually able to get them a record deal.
The thing is, it’s hard to understand what Pony Up! is trying to accomplish. On their Web site, in lieu of a traditional bio they have a lengthy poem that tells the band’s story. It talks about how they got together and started playing, but were stopped in their tracks when some guy said, “You girls are hot!” So in an attempt to prove they were “more than just nice asses,” the band “worked harder” and came up with this EP.
Now it’s obvious that there’s some jokiness to that quasi-bio, as there is with everything the band does. But that’s the whole point. Are they trying to show that women can rock, or are they trying to show that women can do an indie-pop version of the Bloodhound Gang? It seems that they want it both ways—being treated just like any other band, despite being all-female, but then writing songs that only an all-female band would write.
Of course, this is only focusing on the lyrics so far. I think it is safe to say that the band does take itself somewhat seriously with the actual music. While no one in the band will be mistaken for a virtuoso of the instrument she plays, there’s less shambling than you might expect. They are still in an extremely imitative state when it comes to writing songs—“Minstrel” sounds like a b-side from Sleater-Kinney’s All Hands on the Bad One, while “Swans” has more of a Belle & Sebastian/Gentle Waves thing going for it—but that’s not all too surprising for a band’s debut. There aren’t really any twists or turns, but the vocal melodies are often memorable, especially when Laura Wills takes the mic. There’s even a little bit of nervous energy on “Shut Up and Kiss Me”, and “Marlon Brando’s Laundromat” plods along in an effectively wistful manner.
But after listening to this CD, promising indie-pop melodies won’t be the first thing you remember. And it won’t be the second, third or fourth either. You’ll think of “Matthew Modine” and the rest of those forehead-smacking lyrics. It might not be the worst idea in the world—you will undoubtedly remember their name based on this EP, something a thousand other bands would probably love to have happen. But forget about proving to be “more than just nice asses”. First try proving to be more than a jokey novelty act.