Fantastic Voyage

New Young Pony Clubís long-awaited debut puts the female spunk back in punk-funk

Tahita Bulmer, the effervescent frontwoman for New Young Pony Club, has got little love for the sort of po-faced, pseudo-earnest bloke rock that's held her London home in its tatty-trousered chokehold.

"It's been very white, and male, and middle class, or upper-middle class. Women and their histories and their perspective haven't been fashionable for a long time," she says from a recording studio, where she's working on B-sides for singles from NYPC's debut album, Fantastic Playroom (Modular), released August 28. "It's very, very phallocentric, and after you've heard it for the 58th time, it's boring."

That b-word could scarcely be applied to Fantastic Playroom, an utterly addictive collection of 10 sparkling disco-rock jams. But bouncy, bright, or boisterous, hell yeah. If you've recently passed by a TV set and been stopped short by an Intel Core 2 Duo commercial, it was most likely because of the backing track — NYPC's breakout single, "Ice Cream." Although first released a couple of years ago, it still stands out as one of the record's best tracks, a serving as creamy, sweet, and addictive as its namesake.

You could trace a line from Fantastic Playroom back to postpunk and New Wave, but not in the ho-hum, dour way of so many current dance-rock acts with "angular" guitar. Rather, New Young Pony Club seems to hold more in common with the New York model of the era, with its fluid commingling of punk and funk, its saucy high energy over funky bass licks. New Wave New York was also a time and place where women rocked and were allowed to be sexy and unconventionally stylish while doing so. (See ESG, Tom Tom Club, and Blondie.) Oh, but boys are allowed in the club too; the other half of NYPC's core is Bulmer's co-conspirator, Andy Spence.

"The really interesting new bands with boys in them have a strong feminine side to them," Bulmer explains, name-checking pals and fellow Brits the Klaxons and Simian Mobile Disco. "They have that kind of sense of abandon and euphoria and not taking yourself so seriously, which is a very feminine trait, because it suggests a lack of testosterone and ego."

And, perhaps, a spirit of let's-play-dress-up-for-the-disco, which bleeds through on every track of Fantastic Playroom. Indeed NYPC is almost as much about the visual as the audio, and proud of it. "If you're a band living this fantastical lifestyle, you have to try that extra bit harder to be inspiring and aspirational for the people who are watching you. Nobody wants everyone to turn up looking like they work on a checkout anymore. It's about fancy and dream reality as opposed to concrete reality," Bulmer says. "The resurgence of strong female characters is bringing back style and panache, and everything's going a bit disco. And I think that's a good thing."

And if the result is more fun from New Young Pony Club and their peers, then so, definitely, do we.

 
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