Poni Hoax Poni Hoax

[Tigersushi; 2006]

Styles: post-punk, techno, DFA, horror disco
Others: melted snow from The Avalanches, Morrissey on a Kompakt release

Poni Hoax's self-titled debut boasts a handful of killer singles and some competent post-punk/indie-rock sprinkled in between. I could downgrade it for the lack of innovation in those intermediate numbers, but the surpassing strength of the best songs here is undeniable. Carried on the Byrn-ing Moz-oleum vocals of frontman Nicolas Ker, this is a band that has muscle, mojo, and moxie. All three.

"She's on the Radio" channels Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, and Devo, its blurting bass and squiggly synths crafting the kind of stodgy funk that makes that lame guy at the party do the robot every time. But this segues into a robust, guitar-heavy bridge, and it all closes out with a single cymbal hit. Provocative opener: mission accomplished. Next song: "Budapest."

"Budapest" stalks you in silver furs of danger and seduction, never letting you see more than you pay for. A throbbing, Teutonic heartbeat bass beat bounces beneath a divine disco string hook and the diffident, alluring female vocals. The titillating poise here is delicious preparation for the party to come.

"Involutive Star" has a pile of hooks and a handclap break that never fails to make me shake my fist with fierce joy. It starts with some autechral errata, but that disappears after about five seconds, and a scratchy beat with hi-hat that James Murphy would kill for takes control. These guys love the polyrhythm: organs, handclaps, guitars... somehow they all bring both melodies and grooves, but the song never sounds overcrowded — it's like a perfectly filled dancefloor: just enough frottage, just enough room to move. The song is the best example of Poni Hoax's cunning combination of polished house sensibility with aggro guitar impulses. And those handclaps. Can't get over 'em. Everything drops out and they plap away for a couple bars before airthang's added back in. Dynamite track. TNT!

"Cheerleader in My Dreams" and "Drunks and Painters on Parade" are pretty enough, but their crescendos, melodies, and arrangements will all sound terribly familiar to listeners of Modest Mouse, Death Cab, The Arcade Fire, et al. Not bad songs by any means, but they don't approach the fresh potency of the album's first half. "L.A. Murder Motel" gets things right back on track by out-DFAing DFA. Yes, cowbell. Yes, sleazy guitar. But yes also to screeches, continental beat clusters, and a constant postponement of climax, until the excesses start having excesses of their excesses. "She Sells Anger" and "Le Fil du Temps" close the album with dangerous downtempo energy, using decelerated beats and swooning piano to form an apropos counterpoint to the ebullience of the first songs.

Poni Hoax is clearly a band with no shortage of talent. They cover more ground in ten songs than many bands do in entire careers. Nailing so many sexy reworkings of other groups' rote genre exercises evinces their imagination and range and points to a very promising future. Saddle up kids, this pony's got way more than one trick.

1. She's On the Radio
2. Budapest
3. Carrie Ann
4. Involutive Star
5. Cheerleader In My Dreams
6. Drunks and Painters on Parade
7. I Shall Take It Anyway
8. L.A. Murder Motel
9. She Sells Anger
10. Le Fil Du Temps