In an April 2007 interview with The Guardian, New Young Pony Club frontwoman Tahita Bulmer described her band’s music as “dance music with real songwriting attached. You can dance to it and be crazy . . . then go home and listen to it and the lyrics are quite reflective.” Surely she’s not talking about lyrics like “Drink me like a liquor/ come on and dip your dipper/ show me what you’re here for, guy,” but the band does put an emphasis on fleshing out all aspects of its sound, both lyrically and musically. In fact, Fantastic Playroom comes off as an extended overcompensation for a lack of depth. Singles “The Bomb” and “Ice Cream” (which sold out its initial pressing in just three days) are so endlessly enjoyable that neither needs depth. They are perfect at face value, ideal for the party, with their bouncy electronics, Bulmer’s charismatic vocals, and chugging beats.
But Fantastic Playroom is rounded out by unsuccessful attempts at creating mid-tempo grooves in which the band members try to prove their musical chops; those tracks feel too crowded and sorely lack the carefree, nervous energy of the album’s successes, such as “The Get Go” and “Get Lucky.” On the former, Bulmer is subdued and resigned, allowing herself to follow the bass-driven musical groundwork laid by the band. The result is catchy and natural-feeling. On “Get Lucky,” it’s the band that follows Bulmer, bending synths and bells around her vocals so that they coexist harmoniously.
It’s almost as if Fantastic Playroom is trying to do too much. With so many agendas, it’s a miracle that New Young Pony Club ended up all on the same page at all. Such ambition makes Fantastic Playroom a disjointed experience, but its triumphs are worth delighting in.