Pons- Intellect (Album Review)
Mind transforming experiences are hard to come by. On Intellect, Vermont based post-punk band, Pons promises an experience that is almost seemingly connected to the brain. It is written all over the identity of the band, as their name is taken from a part of the brain. The album cover features brains. The album title is Intellect, which again is another term closely associated with the brain. Will you feel a grand transformation after listening to this record? In some way, maybe. Intellect is a record that has the ability to propel you into this brand new, almost primal train of thought that is rare to achieve in any sort of work of art. You may catch yourself banging your hand in an aggressive manner as this album plays, as it sears deep into your skin. This album has the ability to obtain a part of your life that you may not expect it to, if only for 44 minutes. This is not an exaggeration and I promise that it is not an attempt for the author of this review to be funny. Pons has a unique and unmatched way of letting the listener feel fully transported, an extension of the music. This is an ability that can not be taught and is achieved by very few.
Intellect could be described with an onslaught of nasty adjectives, and that's what makes it such an amazing experience. The songs feel like they can transport you into two places at one time, a left brain, right brain situation, if you still associate with that antiquated theory. On one hand, a lot of these song structures feel fully planned out and are even insanely catchy. These moments can change to the complete opposite, as moments are messy and entirely lacking any structure whatsoever. Pons uses this strength to their advantage and plays around with this quite a bit. The song ‘Dick Dastardly’ is a prime example of this. It starts with a very inviting almost rockabilly-sounding guitar, the listener is greeted after this intro with a yelling, almost chanting voice coaxing us into the track. At this point the listener is being led down a tunnel, a point of no return. It's the sort of place you know you shouldn’t be, but want to keep going at the same time. 90 seconds in, and the track becomes an absolute mess of madness. Horns, crashing drums and screaming that sounds straight from a nightmare you had when you were nine bombard you. This continues for the next 2 minutes of the track, until we are let out of the tunnel and can see the light once again. Pons knows how to create an intense but yet enjoyable listening experience.
The highlights on this record really are true musical achievements. Pons is made up of a diverse set of influences, and they often love to take their sounds in different directions at the most random of times. The three tracks on the album that blew me away, ‘No Squid,’ ‘Timmy Two Shoes,’ and ‘Subliminal Messages’ all take these influences and mold them into something that not many people would have the imagination to create. ‘NO Squid’ is a maddening nautical adventure with traditional punk sensibilities with highly contagious and grooving undertones. ‘NO Squid’ is also a great example of Pons’ ability to create a mess and clean it up seamlessly. ‘Jimmy Two Time’ feels like an old school garage-rock tune that continues this idea, but brings it to a muddy mosh pit that I may or may not want to be a part of. ‘Subliminal Messages’ feels like the most modern of any of the songs on this record, as it takes traditional elements of Dance-Punk and turns the ideas of the genre to a 90 degree angle. It almost feels like it doesn’t belong on the record, as the attitude almost feels a little bit more jarring than the other tracks on this album. At the same time, it feels right at home, because it is still rooted in the same ethos that Intellect centers itself around.
This album is not for people who don’t like their music covered in fuzz and muck. This is a noisy listening experience that may deter a listener from getting any source of enjoyment out of it. Even for the biggest fan of noise, the differing weights of vocal noise on these tracks can get a little tedious over the course of 14 tracks. Songs have every right to be incoherent, but I just wish the band would have stuck with just one level for their vocals and went with it. A song that has unintelligible lyrics, in the case of this album, feels very awkward when matched up against songs where we can hear our vocalist well. Some of the transitions into the noise also feel a little bit forced at times, and this combination has an opposite effect these high energy, chaotic songs should have on a listener. It becomes a case of sensory overload and one may feel as if they could doze right off. A little bit more cohesion to the tracks would go a far way and separates this release from being just a good album to a fantastic album.
Intellect is a very promising release from a very creative and intriguing band like Pons. Certain records encourage the listener to just really want to go see a band, whether they like the music or not. The performance and passion that Pons show us on Intellect prove this. If touring ever becomes safe and normal again, I think this outfit is an absolute must see, as their music is head scratching and so full of so much charm. Pons is a band you definitely should not sleep on, because if you do, they are sure to wake you right up.
Favorite tracks: NO Squid, Subliminal Messages, Timmy Two Time
Least Favorite Tracks: Fabrication, Golden Handshake
Listen to NO Squid, from Pons' ambitious album, Intellect, below: