After an alleged breakup, Baltimore’s most spastic punk band, Ponytail, returns with Do Whatever You Want All The Time. This follows 2008’s Ice Cream Spiritual, a ferocious blast of noisy, distorted punk gems. Like past releases, lead singer Molly Siegel’s constant but never coherent screams continue to dance on the line of comical and terrifying, sometimes making her sound like a heavy-metal goddess and sometimes like a toddler who’s drunk on Four Loko. However, this latest release shows the rest of the band taking a different, almost unrecognizable turn, trading in the distortion and aggression from the past for smoother melodies and instrumental complexity.
The move is a smart one. The group gave up a lot of the aggression for melody but managed to hold on to the relentless energy from the past. The guitar lines used by Dustin Wong vary from arena-rock tapping to almost jazzy noodling. Standing out behind Wong are the busy yet ever so precise drum lines, which drift from rock-god fills into house-music style, four-on-the-floor, bass-drum rhythms and then into African and bossa nova grooves without ever sounding disingenuous. The hectic instrumentation cools down during “Flabbermouse” and then for the entire ambient track of “Beyondersville/Flight Of Fancy.” Both opportunities allow for Siegel’s voice to enter into new, sometimes digitally affected, levels of experimentation.
It’s hard to tell if the seemingly random, incoherent screeching and shouting from Siegel is meant to be a gimmick, a cop out or a totally genuine mode of expression. Whatever it may be, it’s working. Each scream or exasperated grunt fits perfectly into the sharp, spastic drum-and-guitar interplay that weaves the rhythm. The more peaceful instrumentation handles the melody while giving this unorthodox singing technique more room to work. Perfect for the spastic dance party Ponytail is throwing.