Ponytail – [Album]

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

At first blush, Ponytail's Ice Cream Spiritual sounds like an art school exploding. Chaos reigns – thunderous drums, insane guitars, and otherworldly screaming in gibberish from lead “singer” Molly Siegel.

Everyone in the band seems to be playing a different song; guitar riffs pop up out of nowhere, repeat a few times, and then fade out, to be replaced by a different, totally unrelated riff a few moments later. You might not have noticed that, though, because there was another guitar line going on simultaneously, and the drums probably changed tempos a half dozen times, and yes, that “singer” was shouting nonsense at you the entire time. And it was all happening so loud and so fast that your brain probably gave up on figuring any of it out.

There's no way they planned any of this, the listener can't help but think. They just huffed a bunch of paint backstage, and then came out to punish their instruments for a few minutes before they go back to do some heroin and mellow out. And yet, they did, in fact, plan this stuff out. They constructed these songs that ebb and flow so naturally that they seem to be alive. They planned this chaos, and then they practiced it and played it back, and it still sounds almost impenetrably chaotic. Maybe these guys (and girl) are actually kind of musical geniuses? Maybe instead of art-rock-freakouts, they're more like a New Millennium Yes?

Viewed in this light, Ice Cream Spiritual is a marvel of precision—like watching the swirling tide with a full understanding of fluid dynamics. Their songs are masterfully constructed to to elicit a sort of insane state of primal ecstasy, and they're wonderfully successful at it. It is functionally impossible to stand still at a Ponytail live show. The one time I saw them, I had had enough beer to make me feel bloated and drowsy, and continually debated leaving. Once they take the stage, though, it's as impossible to walk away as it is to stop dancing.

To be sure, while the tracks have great internal variation, one is not so different from the other. There are a few stand out tracks; “Beg Waves” and “Late For School” are great showcases for what they do. Other than that, their songs are mostly interchangeable.

Still, Ice Cream Spiritual is a masterful sonic document—a party from beginning to end. It's a prog record that isn't boring and doesn't beat you over the head with its creator's musical dexterity. It's a psychedelic record that doesn't make you want to sit on the floor until it's over. It's a dance rock record that doesn't sound glossily cynical. It's simply an amazing disc.


Ponytail – "Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)" – [mp3]

Ice Cream Spiritual is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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