O2 Academy Islington, London Monday, February 22
If ever a band were set up to make a shruggingly insignificant second album and promptly dollop into the pop cesspit to fester into new rave nothingness, it was [a]New Young Pony Club[/a]. An OK-ish 2007 debut, ‘Fantastic Playroom’, buoyed by just enough festival tent-rippling tuuunes to ensure they met their neon tailors’ bills each month; the news that they’d subsequently “parted company” with label Island; the fact that they’d be releasing second album ‘The Optimist’ themselves – it all added up to second album expectations so low even The Twang would struggle to stifle a guffaw.
One listen to ‘The Optimist’ is enough to make anyone who harboured such views force-feed themselves a radioactive glowstick in shame. And don’t the band know it. Tonight Tahita Bulmer, flicking her horse-mane hair like Indiana Jones cracking a peroxide whip, has an elegantly confident stride that suggests she falls out of bed on to Wembley Stadium’s stage every morning – despite the fact that tonight they’re debuting much of the album for the first time.
If up-and-comers [a]Teeth[/a] (laptop-frottaging yell-athon), [a]Lyrebirds[/a] (stirring gloom-rock hooking ducks in White Lies’ fairground) and [a]Chew Lips[/a] (electropop architects of the formidable ‘Solo’) were expecting to upstage the bride, they were sadly misguided. Indeed, the confidence has seeped from Ty’s silver shoes to the setlist she looms over; they open with new cut ‘Chaos’ and she declares the band will be playing “quite a lot of” ‘The Optimist’ tonight in full knowledge that half the crowd here are already holding out their bowls for ‘Ice Cream’. The former song’s dark dance pound is winning from the off, while another newie, the synth-abusing ‘Dolls’, soon follows with a similarly pounding impact.
Old ‘Fantastic…’ favourites ‘Hiding On The Staircase’ and ‘Ice Cream’ – previously such blatant highlights they carried the threat of being set-shadowing burdens – simply sound like fun-funk interludes, such is the dark dance depth of the new material.
“New Pony Club, new danger,” Ty declares before the new album title track, full of warped U2-when-they’re-actually-amazing throbs in. They end the set not with ‘The Bomb’, nor their cover of [a]PJ Harvey[/a]’s ‘Dress’, but with newie ‘We Want To’, the biggest tune on an album that hasn’t been heard by anyone in the room except those who’ve seen the band members in the shower. That it garners a response as if someone’s just hijacked the PA and mainlined ‘Blue Monday’ through the stacks is testament to how far a little optimism gets you.