I’m sure that you remember the premise for this particular recurring feature, right? That we stumble upon a CD or vinyl from an unknown (to us) Canadian artist when (and/or where) we least expect it, and choose to pick it up on a whim to bring home for our listening pleasures. While we broke our own rules slightly with the previous recipient of this feature back in April (Ryan Kennedy), whose music came to us via a digital sound file, this latest discovery landed in our laps the old-fashioned way – trawling through the used record bins looking for the latest arrivals in a local MD bookstore.
It’s not often that you find a new and sealed copy of a record when flicking through the never-ending stream of dubious 70s and 80s albums, very old country records, Bavarian polka, and other obscurities. But, on our most recent excursion, a bright pink cover popped out with a ‘Made in Canada’ sticker located in the bottom corner, which promptly halted my skimming and was pulled out for a thorough look. What I had found was a new and sealed copy of “TV Baby,” the 2021 album release from Toronto indie-punk band PONY.
This was a perfect candidate. An attractive price tag, and a band that had never crossed my radar – indeed, a quick check-in with fellow GDW team member Steve Murphy yielded a similar response. Knowing of Steve’s curiosity, I was not surprised to find a follow-up text shortly after, stating that he’d sampled it, and that it was ‘very nineties Veruca Salt sounding.’ My mind traveled back to recall the song “Seether,” a favorite from my 90s indie-rock heyday, and promptly removed any doubts as to why I should not take this album from PONY home with me.
Spinning the album, the opening track “Chokecherry” bursts through the speakers, itself an amalgam of late 80s synth-punk and early 90s indie-grunge that certainly earned my attention. “I could say that I don’t mind / But I don’t wanna be that kind / Hold my breath ‘cause everything is fine / But I don’t feel alright,” recites lead vocalist/guitarist Sam Bielanski, accompanied shortly after by a blast of guitar rings that fill a momentary void before the peppy chorus that follows. “Ooh, you blew it / If you don’t know me by now, I’m so over it / Can you get a grip / You talk and you talk but you don’t listen.”
Progressing into “WebMD,” Bielanski’s vocals are noticeably sharp, with a little more intensity from the instrumentation behind her. As I worked my way through the first track, there was something in the back of my mind that sounded familiar, but I could not connect the dots. But with the thumping bass lines and powerful drum beat to open “WebMD,” I quickly recall memories of a Tokyo Police Club concert I attended a few years back. Similarities in sound to this other Toronto indie-punk band were further validated when noticing the Club’s Graham Wright handling the synth duties on this album. “It’s way too late for you to try / Don’t want you to / I don’t want to need anyone / Cause anyone can pull me down.”
Zipping through the albums ten tracks in just under 30 minutes of running time, this one is a quick ride. Of course, I saw nothing to indicate on the cover, insert, or record itself that this was pressed to rotate at 45rpm, so imagine my initial surprise when thinking I’d accidently brought home a strange, surreal sounding Crash Test Dummies clone. Spinning the platter at the desired speed, Take Two meant that we were in business, and the album sprinted along with its intense pop-punk offering – where adrenalized timing changes and crashing cymbals remain ever-present amidst a sea of heavy guitar distortion and power chords. I detect hints of Manic Street Preachers during the brief guitar intro to “Furniture,” while both “Sunny D” and (especially) “My Room” ooze with those previously noted Veruca Salt influences. “I don’t wanna feel anything / So I’m gonna go back to sleep / ‘Cause in my dreams I am everything that I want to be / I am flying.”
One of the tracks here that stood out for me was “Cry,” and if asked to articulate why, I believe my response would be that here we have a great crossover tune that could be at home equally on CBC Radio 2 as it would on that of the indie-leaning CBC Radio 3. Furthermore, I’d happily defend my position that “Cry” separates itself from the intense post-punk/grunge theme to fit with a curated playlist that transcends a variety of conventional indie, shoegaze, emo, and punk-pop genres – and would not feel at all out of place amongst the likes of other notable Canadian trendsetters, including Weaves, The Beaches, Hyaenas, and Tegan & Sara. We took a chance on this interesting full-length debut from PONY (following their 2017 “Do You” EP), and while it may be a little bit outside of our usual wheelhouse, for a random find, it sure is a worthy addition to our vinyl collection.
Photo Credit: Artist Website