Do Whatever You Want All the Time
(We Are Free)
Last year, after a set at their scene's Whartscape Festival, Baltimore art-rock band Ponytail seemed to announce a break-up, or at least a prolonged breather. Dustin Wong put out an expansive double album of guitar instrumentals and toured solo, Jeremy Hyman became a drummer for The Boredoms, ebulliently goofy singer/screamer Mollie Siegel was off "on a journey to find herself"—just classic break-up stuff. Conversely, their label's website currently greets you with a glowering picture of a semi-shirtless Soundgarden definitively declaring: "Ponytail Has Not Broken Up." Chris Cornell looks pretty serious about it. There's also a new album, Do Whatever You Want All the Time, which doesn't really signal much about future intentions, but does prove that the project still has some creative legs.
New twists arrive immediately. "Easy Peasy" opens with kaleidoscopic electronic sounds, perhaps backed up by an amped bubble machine. Wong once relied on knotty Deerhoof-ish blurts, but chilled-out African-inspired grooves now permeate. The energetic interplay between Wong and Hyman is still the backbone of the band, but their build-ups to the truly cathartic moments seem more confident. It's most surprising how peripheral Siegel feels to the actual songs, where on the last record her nonsense screaming was so central. Slightly more relaxed and intelligible, Siegel brings to mind the off-the-cuff allure of Life Without Buildings' singer Sue Tompkins. When subtle style tweaks can produce a modest but enjoyable lark like this, it's probably best to let Ponytail play out their album's title in real life without getting too hung up about what comes next