Even back in 2002, when Mark Cullen and his band cantered onto the scene with their debut album, nobody quite knew what stable to place them in. A bunch of quirky, low-fi tunes based around his suburban Dublin upbringing that twinkled with cynicism, dripped with derision and were delivered in an amusingly blasé manner, 'Home Truths' even made Morrissey sit up and take notice of the little-known songwriter. Yet despite the likeable electronica-tinged meanderings of Pony Club's pop songs, it was always Cullen's lyrics that set him apart from his peers.
And that's still apparent six years on; Post Romantic may well be the first release (this is their third album) to sear Pony Club's name firmly into the music-buying consciousness. Lyrically, Cullen is at the top of his game: his vignettes on the mundanity of thirtysomething life are both funny and poignant in places (particularly Anthony, the tale of a lad's transformation into a family man who's "got life sussed at 43 in [his] Adidas trainers"), and the brilliant Diplomat ("I can talk all night, I can settle wars / But I'm sick to death of dealing with your in-laws").
It's no surprise, either, that two of Pony Club's members used to play with A-House - there's a strong musical similarity on several of these songs, particularly the brilliant I Still Feel the Same and the ambient, spoken-word musings of To Tell the Truth.
At its heart, though, this is a moderately straightforward pop album. Cullen slings his rhymes around twangy guitar tunes like an Irish Damon Albarn at various intervals; at others, particularly on the piano-led numbers, he's like a cross between The Divine Comedy and 1960s pop. The only fault with Post Romantic is that even though Cullen's stories are consistently interesting, the evenly-paced soundtrack begins to flag two-thirds of the way in. Nevertheless, this is a firmly likeable record and undoubtedly Pony Club's finest hour to date.