Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Unknown Music Review 2: Driftless Pony Club: Expert

Driftless Pony Club's lead singer Craig Benzine is YouTube's Wheezy Waiter. Many episodes of which I would ambiguously recommend it . He is also in the very excellent (and committed because its a DIY television show made by "amateurs"): Platoon Of Power Squadron.

That's how I found out about their music.

I bought this album on the strength of a few tracks I'd heard.

Musically and lyrically they seem very influenced by REM, They Might Be Giants and Guided By Voices and Dookie era Green Day. And those are good influences to seem to have. At its best this Expert achieves some of the oblique pleasures of a Stipe chorus or the energised smirk of a verse of Basket Case. It isn't afraid to rock either and has a pretty hard edge, at times so hard that it is an intense listen.

The album has a lot of space between vocals and that space is packed tightly with a lot of musical ideas. When this works it works well, allowing the words to breathe and adding to the journey the song takes you on. When it doesn't work however it is like a smear obscuring what the song is about, distancing the song from the audience. (I almost said a smear on the window of the song but it sounded just too stupid... however I liked the image so much I had to mention it in these brackets.)

When they are "smeared" the songs become hard to relate to. It's the prog mistake; getting so interested in experimentation and variety that you lose a clear sense of what the core of the song is. They are stimulating their own minds but not the minds/hearts of the audience.

But even when the songs don't fully work they have their moments. The hunger that for variety that DPC seem to have means there are always good bits to recapture your attention.

When the songs work they really work. Legends Of Archery, Maps Of Low Fidelity and Thanks, Earthquake are excellent, full of bounce, great melodies, intriguing and moving lyrics and engaging musical variation.Those are the stand out tracks, but then since the album is 6 songs long this means half of it is stand out good, and the other half is getting there.

Benzine has a great voice and the production is really nice, the drums sounding particularly fine. I felt that the songs should have had a little more space between them, no songs apart from the last one have a moment for you to clear your palette. Sometimes running songs seamlessly into each other can work, but on this album it doesn't, what it means is the ends of the songs don't have the impact they require.

It's a good CD to have on in the background at a party and those three songs are great. They sound like a band really working themselves out, really hungry for making good songs and making good music. This album has some great songs on and they are worth the price of admission. However half of it could be improved on. But that's how I feel about most albums.

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