Available on: The Numbers / PIAS LP

It’s been three years since New Young Pony Club were last seen riding the crest of nu rave’s neon promise; three years since people wore high tops and pretended nu rave was anything other than the flaccid cock twitch of a movement that it really was. In hindsight it’s a shameful blip on the pop cultural milieu, and by god, NYPC are just as eager to forget it as you.

In doing this, the four-piece, formally a five-piece, have unwittingly fallen into a catalogue of clichés, ticking off sophomore album truisms like they’re completing a market research questionnaire. Is album number two more song driven? Check. Emotionally mature? Check? Darker? Come on, Check. Any fun or the pretence thereof has been banished in favour of a puritanical approach that would sooner stub a cigarette out on your arm than hear you request ‘Ice Cream’ again.

Sometimes, aided immeasurably by Tahita Bulmer’s sultry vocals, NYPC pull off this moody new look: The Optimist‘s title track, with its tubular synths and stacks of reverb, is a swollen tribute to Siouxsie at her most claustrophobic that actually works, while the terse ‘Architect of Love’ is a stripped back, post punk indepted break-up record that simmers dramatically where previous records have fizzed and popped too soon.

At other times it just feels like a schlocky attempt at emotional depth, using we really mean it-isms to divert attention from the group’s inability to abandon completely the 1978-81 punk funk sticking point – the spindly bass and dancefloor beat feeling increasingly bland when shorn of frivolity. The pity is all the more biting when confronted by a catalogue of missed opportunities and flashes of embryonic ideas – washes of toothy mid range synths on ‘Lost a Girl’, a snatch of a techno kick prefixing ‘The Optimist’ – which come and go all too quickly. These anomalous pockets of sonic residue are relegated to tokenisms with only ‘Stone’ pursuing new ground; its cascading bleeps and oscillating keys swelling into rootless electronic pop that, for once, feels neither derivative nor retro.

Still, a few synth patches and a moody rebrand doesn’t mask the fact that The Optimist feels like a carefully plotted attempt to give the impression of a band developing a sound without taking any real risks – which it probably is. Pleasant enough for a bit, but for New Young Pony Club you can’t help but think the moment’s passed.

Louise Brailey



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