Ponytail – Do Whatever You Want All The Time

written by: April 25, 2011
Release Date: April 12, 2011


When listening to the third record from Baltimore quartet Ponytail, it’s helpful for the listener to picture in his or her mind a “ponytail” in its original derivation—as the pony trots along rhythmically, the long strands of hair sway back and forth hypnotically. The ponytail seems to shimmer like strands of silk in the sun, but its silkiness is an illusion—in reality, the horse hair is quite coarse and tough.

Ponytail produces the musical equivalent of this picture, punctuated by the Siouxsie-like whinnies of Molly Siegel that pop across the vast deserts of sound like percolating popcorn in the midday sun. Throughout, guitarists Dustin Wong and Ken Seeno introduce angles of rhythmic noodling that interlaces with full-force electronic blips and bleeps and rhythmic syncopations from percussionist Jeremy Hyman (who’s been playing with the Boredoms as of late—their member Eye made the cover art for this release).

Although the tracklisting of seven songs begs for the EP bin, the tracks average more than five minutes and the total running length is more than 36 minutes. That said, after repeated listens these compositions start to sound like improvisations on the same theme.

Siegel yelps and screams like some bizarre hybrid of Björk’s vocals in The Sugarcubes and Yoko Ono, and her “lyrics” seem to be largely improvisational dada-ist questions and statements. After a while, it’s hard to tell if she’s saying “What?” or “One!” on “Easy Peasy” and “Flabbermouse” and most of the time it’s hard to understand what she’s saying exactly, but that’s clearly not the point. Her vocal caterwauls (with a capital C) serve as a high-pitched instrument, as opposed to being a source of meaning in Ponytail.

Siegel’s soprano provides the chunks of ice in the musical blender that contains Ponytail. The dual guitars weave kaleidoscopic patterns over a base of electronics and syncopated rhythms, but after a while one realizes that there’s nowhere near the melodies and hooks there could be, which is quite frustrating, given the talent and creativity clearly at work on Do Whatever You Want All the Time.

The jazzy but angular guitar interplay sounds inspired by post-rock/math-rock auteurs like Polvo or Pinback, but it ends up sounding like Edie Brickell’s missing New Bohemians after a three-way tricycle accident.

Just because J. Robbins from Jawbox produced this, don’t expect it to sound at all Jawboxian—their off-kilter sensibility approaches the Deerhoofian, but Deerhoof have a better penchant for melody expressed in spurts throughout their recordings.

The end result sounds like techno-punks Crystal Castles playing during “your local forecast” on The Weather Channel, but injected with tranquilizers … the horse kind, of course.  After all, a ponytail covers what could be loosely referred as a horse’s ass, and although the first trip is pleasant, after riding behind this pony on a few too many trips, one starts to get a whiff of something foul, despite what seems at first to be a lovely blonde rainbow of horse hair.

Ponytail – Do Whatever You Want All The Time Tracklist:

  1. “Easy Peasy”
  2. “Flabbermouse”
  3. “Honey Touches”
  4. “Beyondersville//Flight of Fancy”
  5. “AwayWay”
  6. “Tush”
  7. “Music Tunes”