Do you like your punk rock to not give a fuck? Do you like when reviews start with a rhetorical question? Me neither, so let’s move on.
Pony Boy’s guitarist Mike Notaro doesn't give a shit that his guitar is out of tune on the opening riff. Bassist Dallas Bailey doesn't give a shit about playing bass chords with reckless abandon like a young Lou Barlow, or that his chest is way too shiny when he unbuttons his shirt while tearin’ shit up live. Drummer Matt Wissig doesn't give a shit about denting the crap out of my drumheads (okay, he does, but it’s fine, Matt; I needed new ones anyway) or that he fills more than Keith Moon.
“Life, Death, Birth, Whatever” kicks things off with one of the more melodic moments of the album, giving you a false sense of security. The opening sustained vocal wails from Notaro remind me a lot of past Midwestern powerhouses Cap’n Jazz and Braid, but then the guitars go to some harmonics and things get more atonal, in an awesome way. The band shares a lot more in common with early Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes, anyway. “Suicide Girl” goes from soft to loud an incredible number of times for a song that’s 1:18, and the tune contains the rad anti-hipster sing-along line, "Dance! Do the lemming dance!", illustrated in the hand-drawn liner notes portraying bike punks following each other off a cliff. Also, I hope you aren't afraid of a Superbad-level of penises in your album art, because that’s what you’re gonna get here.
It’s a shocker when the five-minute “Plastic Bag” brings the proceeding's screeching to a halt, especially since the previous five tracks don’t even total five minutes. That said, this is my favorite track on the record. It’s still reckless as hell, but shows a more controlled chaos, like, for lack of a better comparison, Sonic Youth. The song appears to be about environmentalism and our disposable culture: "I need a plastic bag / For my plastic bag / To hold my paper box. / For my precious goods / I think that I’ll need / Another plastic bag." This is confusing to me because I thought they didn't give a fuck about shit. Don’t ask me why I’m cursing so much; Pony Boy just riles me up...in a good way. “Teeth” brings back the rock before Side A ends with some odd time signatures and weird fermatas, and a bridge with a combination of keyboard and guitar that I totally thought was banjo at first.
Side B starts confusingly enough with “B-Side,” causing me to incorrectly label the songs on iTunes when I first imported the CD version that comes with the vinyl. Then it’s “Sleepy Head,” another standout: "You’ll sleep when you’re dead / So wake up sleepy head" over some dark riffs and minimal-yet-essential keyboard lines with tones that remind me a lot of that late '70s/early '80s British goth stuff. The band trades vocals wonderfully, as on “Mountain” where Bailey takes the mic for most of the song with his fantastic Isaac Brock-ish lisp, and then Notaro takes over in the quiet section while Bailey goes over to plunk the tiny keyboard sittin’ on top of his bass cabinet. The album has a total live feel due to Notaro recording it all himself, and it being a low-overdub affair. When I saw them live in Indianapolis and Notaro down-tuned his guitar mid-song, I thought it was just a bitchin’ example of being in the moment at a show. Nope, there it is, on “Safe!” Awesome.
The album ends with another longer one, “Costco,” which happens to be another favorite. Ghostly keys, bass chords and tom thumps dominate the beginning of this 4½ minute tune, and the fact that guitars wait until 2:30 to enter shows unbelievable restraint from a band who can barely make it to the one-minute mark on most of their songs. The end has some cool noise effects and the vocals get more intense about wanting to dumpster-dive for coffins to use as sleds...yeah.
Bloomington, Indiana’s Pony Boy don’t give a shit about you or whether you like their music. If you frequent this here website that should be a huge compliment to the band and make you check them out post-haste. Too bad they don’t give a fuck about your online ‘scene’ either, because there is nothing anywhere to listen to on the web. Do like the old days and buy this shit unheard straight out of a poorly-Xeroxed label’s catalogue, like in the '90s. Trust me, just do it.
Funny thing is, they probably don’t give a shit about this review either and probably won’t read it. Eh, whatever, as long as you all read it and do as I say and go buy it. DO THE LEMMING DANCE--in a good way.