Driftless Pony Club Trots Along

Courtesy of Dangerbird

YouTube can be a powerful thing for musicians. We watch our favorite artist’s music videos, keep up with their video blogs and watch live videos on it. We also might find a video blogger whom we find funny and subscribe to their videos. One of these comedians is Craig Benzine, known on YouTube as “wheezywaiter.”

As of March 4, 2011, Craig Benzine has almost 295,000 subscribers on his main channel. Viewers have become enamored with his imaginative video blogs and quirky sense of humor. Craig Benzine, in addition to being a YouTube star, is also a guitarist and a singer for his own band Driftless Pony Club, a Chicago-based indie band with all the quirkiness and fun that one would expect from Benzine’s musical endeavors.

Driftless Pony Club is by no means new to the music scene. Their first album, “Janel,” was released in 2004, and the band has had two more released since then. This makes their latest album “Buckminster” their fourth studio outing, and it definitely does not disappoint.

“Buckminster” begins with a minimalist first track, and immediately introduces the listener to the unique lyrical prowess of Driftless Pony Club – no doubt the work of Benzine himself. The very title of the first song, “When We Live In Circles and Eat On Merry-Go-Rounds,” should clue the listener into this fact.

The rest of the album is marked by fairly upbeat rhythms, featuring your standard guitar, bass and drums with some electronic elements thrown in here and there. Driftless Pony Club does manage to take these common elements and carve out a sound that is memorable and just plain fun to listen to, if only for attentively listening to the words of each song and wondering how Benzine came up with them.

In a world plagued by generic pop lyrics and beats, bands like Driftless Pony Club are welcomed with open arms, as every song offers a little something different to the overall listening experience. In the second song on the album, lyrics like “you were my first experiment, too bad I’m prone to failure” and “how can I be a citizen when all I see are tetrahedrons?” demonstrate just how off-the-wall the content of these songs can be. While it may seem off-putting, after a few listens through the album you will find yourself singing along with Benzine’s unorthodox diction.

In addition to the sometimes strange lyrical choices, Benzine’s singing style is unique all unto itself. His style can sometimes come across as that Interpol-esque monotone voice, but it is instantly distinguishable from the sound of other bands in the same genre. It is by no means difficult to listen to, however, and Benzine is easy to understand as well.

Driftless Pony Club also makes occasional use of synthesizer elements, as first demonstrated on the fourth track on the album entitled “Inspectors of Inspectors.” The synthesizer grooves add just enough to the song to give that little extra boost while not being overly distracting to the feel of the song. The main focus of the music still rests on Benzine’s odd singing style and eccentric lyrics.

Behind the singing is a very solid set of musicians that have a strong command of their instruments, and it’s clearly evident that this band has been playing together for quite some time. While they don’t play the most technically difficult songs, the simplicity and pure fun that this band exudes through their music is enough to keep the listener completely engaged in the experience.

The standout song on this album, “El Cid III,” perfectly blends all of the aforementioned elements that this band so wonderfully captures. Catchy guitars, memorable lyrics (despite their odd nature), solid drumming and Benzine’s unique voice all combine to make this song one that I found myself playing repeatedly while sitting around my apartment relaxing.

The build-up late in the song (helped along by a strong yet subtle electronic element) is great, and it really helps define this song as the one you will remember before all the others after the album spins its last track.

With all that being said, it’s hard to imagine what there’s not to like about Driftless Pony Club. Admittedly, the first time through the album can be slightly jarring to those unfamiliar with the genre and its sometimes strange nature. Some listeners might be turned off by the eccentric lyrical content upon first listen, but after a few times through, the songs begin to stick with you.

Even if you’re not into the genre, I recommend giving the song previews a go. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised by this Chicago-based group’s efforts, or you might not. Either way, it’s worth your time to give them a shot. You just might find yourself singing along to “wheezywaiter’s” lyrics and find yourself in love with Driftless Pony Club.

Rating: 4/5 Stars