The notorious “half Canadian musical comedy duo” Joe and Jaye MacAskill perform and record under the name Pony Death Ride, and guess what, folks? They’ve saddled up once again and the best warning I can give to music audiences is a quote from Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Jurassic Park: “Hold on to your butts!” Unlike their previous releases, Cat Sounds (featuring tunes about cats…duh!) and the holiday-themed The First Leon, their new release Unthemed is an eclectic collection of various musical styles about lots of subjects, mainly held together by their irreverent delivery and bawdy lyrics. Their appearance is deceptive. They look like they could be the sweet couple that lives next door, but the sensibilities revealed in their music are a far cry from Ozzie and Harriet. There is a darkly humorous undercurrent that could be sinister if it weren’t so endearing. Well, to some anyway. You’ll either get where they’re coming from or be completely horrified. One suspects that either of these outcomes are fine by them!
The opening track is a short introduction to the album that features a bit of spoken banter between Joe and Jaye. It’s deceptively innocuous, extolling the virtues of what’s to come, as well as a few humorous and light-hearted remarks about nothing in particular. But that atmosphere is quickly dispelled, as it is followed by the punk guitar-fueled fury of “Ben Stiller, Movie Killer.” They bemoan the fact that it’s “the same damn movie, the same damn plot.” The backing vocals sound like every mean cheerleader you ever lusted after, and there’s a spoken-word interlude backed by an infectious dance beat. The zingers fly fast and furious, so do try to keep up!
I could feel my eyebrows rise during the intro to “Crispin Glover Be My Lover” before it develops into a pastiche of all sorts of influences, evoking Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl,” the monophonic New Wave synth lines pioneered by the Cars and the psychedelic pop classic “Crimson and Clover.” All of this goes toward serenading one of Hollywood’s most quirky movie stars. “I’ll screw you harder than Hollywood ever could. Crispin Glover be my lover.” “Cuddle Party” is a bouncy polka that extols the virtues of a no-sex adult get together, complete with accordion riffs. “Yes PJs and no BJs…here at the cuddle party!” I’m not sure if I should quote the next line, but rest assured that the last word in the phrase is “luck.” As a ukulele is strummed, they croon “You may be disappointed and we understand your sorrow. This is not the dirty salacious sex party you wanted. That’s one week from tomorrow…and we’ll be at that one too!” Good to know.
“Where Were You When Buddy Holly Died?” chugs along with a muscular rockabilly rhythm while lamenting the passing of the music icon and his travelling companions. A chiming lead guitar punctuates each phrase with a period-appropriate authenticity while Joe struts and swaggers his way through the lyrics. Enough time has passed that they can infuse the song with a bit of irreverent humor to go along with the uptempo dance beat. Suffice to say, the legendary rockers are served well in this celebratory tribute.
I don’t want to spoil all the humor and surprises, but the song titles can give listeners an idea of the breadth—and depth—of the subjects tackled by Pony Death Ride. Standouts are “Don’t Be a Pussy”, “We Don’t Have Any Kids and It’s Awesome,” “In Retrospect I Don’t Think Phil Collins Was That Bad,” and “Shut Up, Ted Nugent Is Talking.” In the latter two tracks they quite cleverly poke fun at two high profile targets in pop music, including some well-placed musical and spoken quotes. It’s all executed with a great deal of skill and flair. They sing well and their comic timing is spot on, they have an easy mastery of the musical styles they selected, and the recording is excellent. Local stalwart Mike Kamoo holds down three jobs as producer, engineer and drummer, and he has assisted them in creating an immaculate and authentic backdrop for their performance. Maybe I’m a bit twisted, but I really enjoyed this album!