Matthew Modine is one lucky bastard. He might not realize it, but Pvt. Joker of Full Metal Jacket fame has five disarmingly talented and cute young ladies lusting after him. To top it off, they’re all gifted singers, play in an awesome indie-pop band, and write their songs with a lyrical wink and a smirk reminiscent of Liz Phair before her Avril Lavigne makeover. While brows furrow over the last time anyone even saw Modine’s name in movie credits, the girls of Pony Up! could probably rattle off his whole film roster—as well as a range of other assorted facts about him. Like the fact that he’s an Aries, or that his middle name is Avery. Or that he gives them “creamy jeans.”
Yes, Pony Up!’s self-titled debut might feature the sweet, airy voices and upbeat riffs you would expect from any ordinary all-girl pop band, but Josie and the Pussycats they are not. Their ear-pleasing goods run high on wit and low on shame, and are as likely to induce smiles as tears. Their debut EP opens with “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” a sorrowful lament over a guy too charming for his own good. Glockenspiels chime over plaintive guitar riffs while keyboardist Laura Wills concedes that lust is no substitute for love, but in a sour relationship, sometimes it’s enough: “Yeah, you’re funny, yeah, you’re cute / but let’s move on, that’s all been proven / If I left you wouldn’t miss me / I don’t care, just shut up and kiss me.” Once the pounding synth-organ and feast of mournful “la la la’s” kick in, it’s hard to keep this tune out of your head.
“Marlon Brando’s Laundromat” is another track where Wills’ vocals weave a sad but beautiful lullaby. It begins rather sparsely, with only her voice and a few piano chords enticing you into Brando’s Martinizing joint. Somehow, I picture him decked-out in full motorcycle gear from the The Wild One and cradling a basket of wet socks under his arm as she sings, “Marlon’s never here to see the dryers always break / but I’d rather be with you asleep than anywhere awake.” Around the 3-minute mark, however, the guitars and keyboards shatter the calm while the girls rock out—and it’s hard to keep yourself from doing the same.
But as stated, pop isn’t pop without a few songs to make you grin, and Pony Up! will give you a rictus like Lon Chaney’s in London After Midnight. “Matthew Modine” is the guaranteed favorite, opening with a series of “Pappa-oo-mau-maus” and girlish backup vocals while you learn more about the band’s obsession than you might want to. Camilla Wynne Inger joins Wills on this track, singing, “We know you’ve got some kids, and we could be your kids / but are you into polygamy, because we are, like, totally free / and we could move to New York state, and go on lots of dates / and you can even bring Phoebe Cates.”
If Pony Up! ever comes to town, I’m seriously considering wearing a standard-issue Army helmet with “Born to Kill” emblazoned across the front and a peace badge pinned to the side. Hopefully they’ll take that the right way, and instead of being creeped out (a likely possibility), the raw sexual allure of Mr. Modine will be channeled into my body, and we’ll all live happily ever after. And maybe even write a pop song about it.
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