Nostalgia is a feeling no one can escape. But when a generation hits the 30-year-old mark in the middle of a pandemic, seeing their already precarious chances to achieve traditional “adult” landmarks crumble down, it’s hard to blame them for clinging into nostalgia for a time when things were “simpler”. The debut LP of Canadian power-pop/pop-punk band PONY, TV Baby, hits close to home for millennials, and anyone who was a fan of alt-rock, punk rock bands in the 1990s.
Yet the circumstances of the album’s release couldn’t have been more 2020s. The project was born out of a podcast hosted by Matty Morand and Sam Bielanski (both are in PONY), 2 Much TV, in which they analyze TV shows they binge-watch during quarantine. Both 2020 and 2021 have been propitious for genres like alt-rock and punk rock to rise back to the mainstream. TV Baby doesn’t seem to have such an ambition, but that’s precisely where its fun lies. It’s just plain fun, ingenious songwriting. It’s just friends making music, singing about random things they like.
PONY recall bands like Hole on songs like “My Room”. The LP is driven by fuzzy guitars, easy melodies, and lyrics. While it speaks to the millennial, introvert heart, TV Baby can find an audience amongst younger generations too. After all, they are the ones leading the new pop-punk trends, and they experienced the low downs of quarantine just like anyone else. You don’t need to be a full grown-up to relate to lyrics like “I don’t want to spend my days feeling sorry” (“Sunny D”).
While TV Baby has its quota of apathy in lyrics, the outcome is a feel-good set of tracks that sound like an intimate garage rehearsal, in the best sense of the term. Yet they also could belong in a 1990s high school or college movie soundtrack, such as 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Which is as praising as it can be — just like it intends to be, the Toronto band’s debut LP is as simple and entertaining as good TV.
“I felt too exhausted and hesitant to trudge through my trauma,” said lead singer and guitarist Bielanski for NOW Toronto (2021), “I just wanted to write music about anything other than myself. Of course, a lot of it ends up being autobiographical anyway. You’ll find yourself in the content, but you don’t always have to traumatize yourself in order to do that.”
And, indeed, the aesthetics of TV Baby’s design and videos add to the nostalgia and dreamy feelings that the music summons, more than to its moments of numbness. The video for “Chokecherry” is produced like a VHS film of a birthday party happening somewhere in the 1990s, and the photoshoot for the LP cover shows Bielanski in a pink, dream-like atmosphere, laying over an old TV. The choices are simple and perfect. The glitching TV screen not only makes a perfect pun with “glitch” and “glitter (the band describes itself as “glitter power pop” on their Instagram profile): it also matches the slight feeling of uneasiness, as the situations the songs are born of.
But it’s the glitter that prevails through TV Baby. The only letdown must be that it ends with one of its most exciting tracks, “Swore”, almost like it shouldn’t really have ended there. Or maybe it should, as the song’s opening lyrics say: “It was all a dream, it was all alive”, describing exactly what the experience of listening to the album feels like.