Dead Pony – ‘IGNORE THIS’

By Ian Kenworthy

Getting noticed isn’t easy. If your music speaks for itself but if no one hears it, what do you do? Scottish alt-rockers Dead Pony had this exact problem. After releasing a series of EPs, they felt they were getting nowhere, that their career had stalled and making music was, in fact, like flogging their namesake. So they reconsidered, made something uniquely theirs and gave it a title that sounds like a dare, so here are five reasons why you shouldn’t ‘Ignore This’.

Firstly, this isn’t a rerun. It’s a reinterpretation of their core sound. High-energy and upbeat, it’s alt rock but here they’ve traded in the twangy guitar of 2022’s ‘War Boys’ EP for thicker, groovier riffs. It’s the same basic approach, but there’s a distinct nu-metal flavour to songs like ‘Cobra’ and ‘Mana’ that makes the notes hit so much harder. It’s like swapping a catapult for a cannon. Meanwhile songs like ‘Rainbows’ blend the chunky riffs with a synth to give them a thick industrial flavour, making them feel massive but in a different way. Yet, for all this power, it’s the details that matter. It’s the distorted bass tone on ‘Ignore This’ or the noodly electronic flourishes that turn each song into a rich canvas. So yes, these are rock songs but they’re powerful enough to put them in the same space as Yonaka and Dream State, or even Vukovi.

Second, it’s a dancefloor record. By combining huge riffs and synth elements, the band create a sound designed to get your hips swaying. The juddering synths on ‘Cobra’ sound like they’re ripped from an EDM record but there’s a pulsing energy running through it. This is hardly a new thing, the band’s sound has a lot in common with 90’s alt rock bands like Republica, but what’s important is how they present it. Modern methods mean it’s easy to add a few loops and beats and swishing sounds, so many bands thoughtlessly use them to thicken their sound like adding cornflour to soup. That’s not the case here. They’re not using it to enhance or to ‘fill’ it, they are the sound. Hence you get songs like the audio chaos of ‘MK Nothing’ or the driving speed of ‘White Rabbit’ which is a strobe light in audio form.

The third striking thing is Anna Shields’ singing voice. Presented in a style that’s high and quite chirpy she, neatly matches the music’s high-energy rhythms. By keeping her lyrics relatively simple and repeating vocal motifs, she manages to be both catchy and mesmerising when combined with the electronics on ‘Rainbows’ or providing a contrast to the tsunami of riffs on ‘Faces On The Wall’ or the massive ‘AWOL’. However it’s the clever manipulation of ‘Bad Girlfriend’ and the rapid-fire ‘MK Nothing’ which fold and distort her voice into a shuddering seizures that prove to be highlights. As is the softer chorus to ‘About Love’, which works slightly differently and creates a solid earworm. On ‘Cobra’  the lower male vocal provides a counterpoint that wouldn’t fit with the lead vocal part, creating an artful tension and a massive hook.

Fourth, it’s a hydra. Not only do the band approach their core sound from multiple angles, but the sixteen track order is broken up some really strange interludes, allowing them to be both a hard rock band and something experimental. It’s ambitious and doesn’t play it safe. The record opens with ‘The Antagonist Is Ignorance’, made up of an acoustic guitar riff, a shuffling electronic drum beat and a male vocal, creating an effect a bit like on-hold music. It’s a strange and off-kilter way to open then record, enough to put off the casual listener, but is remarkably effective. Similarly ‘Myself’ based on acoustic sound and a male vocal but explodes into scuzzy beats, a guitar solo and glitches in a way that’s startling and might even be utter genius. Indeed, you wouldn’t believe a weather forecast would make a good hook until you’ve heard ‘Tedious and Bleak’, proving they have tonnes of ideas and they can deploy them in interesting ways; even if it doesn’t sound like the other tracks.

And this leads us neatly to the fifth and final point. The record is cleverly sequenced. Those strange experimental songs simply wouldn’t work unless they were carefully seeded through the runtime. It’s also worth noting that many of the songs here have already been released, notably on the ‘Rainbows’ EP, and the way those songs are blended into the running order keeps them feeling fresh. All that said, the closing song ‘Motor City Mad Man’ just doesn’t belong here. It has the wrong tone, sound and feel, coming across like a joke but at the band’s expense. Basically, they should have left it off, but as it functions like an appendix, it doesn’t harm the record’s flow; even a bad choice seems carefully thought out.

There are so many reasons why Dead Pony’s new album is worth checking out. It’s restlessly creative, showing they’re capable of more than big pop-rock songs. Confident, assured and frequently surprising, they were right. You can’t ‘Ignore This’

IAN KENWORTHY

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