Being featured on a hit TV show like Fox’s the OC can be both a blessing and a curse. Just ask Chuck Klosterman, I’m sure he’ll write you an essay about it. It’s probably safe to assume that for Matt Pond, lead singer of Matt Pond PA, it was a welcome inclusion of his college rock in a show which represents the cultural deficient attitude of today’s youth.
Simply put: Matt Pond makes music which makes white people look bad. Just when the waning of perennial frat-boy favs the Dave Matthews Band gave us the impression that such acts would be rendered to the used bin at your local record store, filed under 90 alt-rock with acts Hootie and the Blowfish, Matt Pond releases yet another record of milquetoast power pop further solidifying his status as a mediocre college-rock act.
It’s not that Mr. Pond doesn’t try to brake out of the mold: he just doesn’t succeed. Pond desperately attempts to emulate Britt Daniel on the “The Way We Get By” like homage “People Have a Way”. The staccato-heavy piano arrangement and seemingly out-of-nowhere throatiness of Pond’s vocals give a slight air of imitation to this beleaguered track. “Wild Girl” is Pond’s acoustic McCartney-esque ditty. At one-minute-and-fifteen seconds Pond manages to evoke a number of Beatles tunes with his turns of phrases and cliche lyrics: “Hey there little wild girl by the ocean dressed in white / all that’s left is your whole life.”
By far the highlight of this album is Pond’s duo with red-headed chanteuse Neko Case. “Taught to Look Away” has the melody of a classic rock tune which nearly trumps the overly melodramatic piano fills which usher in the chorus. After contributing to harmonies, Case prominently emerges in the final verse to add her lusty voice to this exceptionally well written, though not so well executed, track.
The formula seems to be consistent throughout. Pond’s songwriting prowess is repeatedly outdone by his inexcusable execution. The upbeat hand clapping verse of “Sunlight” is demolished by the obnoxious lead guitar and hackneyed lyrics of the chorus. “I wish you would say,” Pond pleads, “when I fuck up, that it’s OK… Sunlight on your face / on this too cold December day.” Someone give this guy a Thesaurus, please. “Basement Party”‘s power pop shows no signs of breaking from this mold as the tail end of Last Light and is, regretfully, difficult to listen to.
It’s not that these songs don’t have their share of hooks. Pond’s melodies have the ability to get inadvertently stuck in your head. There’s is an odd tinge of guilty pleasure one feels when finding themselves singing along to “Wild Girl” or the Neko Case duet “Taught to Look Away”. “Are you listening two thousands miles from here? / Are the crickets just as clear?” is, I suppose, not such a terrible line.
I should probably cut Pond some slack. It’s easy for us online journalists to revert to music snobbery when reviewing a decidedly milquetoast effort. Not being weighed down by corporate advertising contracts or major label affiliations, we inherently call ’em as we see ’em. This inevitably leads to some embellishment on our part when realizing an artist is grossly over rated. My apologies Mr. Pond. If I see you at a bar I would certainly buy you drink. I will not, however, pay money to see your show.