O'Neill is the band's demented diva.
Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons often get labeled as "theater-punk," but this tag doesn't quite capture what makes the local quartet so popular.
Part of their appeal stems from their ability to create songs that sound like Refused or Modest Mouse at times, but that communicate much less serious themes, like the disappearance of one's acne. It's in these moments of silliness that the band's genius appears, transforming childlike observation into entertainment that's both indulgently immature and "for mature audiences only."
To make a long story short, the band will have you in stitches all night but leave you feeling pensive by bar time. That's especially true of the songs from their new album, Damn, Girl. It was released July 3 at the Frequency, as fireworks exploded over the city and Shane O'Neill, the band's demented diva, dived into the crowd, covered in fake gold nails and faker golden curls.
The album's title is inspired, in a roundabout way, by the certitude of teenage girls - "something I find funny and embarrassing," says O'Neill, "but there's also something poignant about people being so sure of themselves but actually being really wrong and lame."
The Pons bring that certitude to statements even younger children might make, which sounds positively cracked - and also punk rock, even if their music is branching out to include post-punk, glam rock and other spin-offs.
One track on the new album, "Special," combines a single, shrill keyboard note, à la the Buzzcocks' "Something's Gone Wrong Again," with a guitar groove of the Black Sabbath-meets-Bad Company variety. At first, the cries of "someone thinks you're special" sound like praise from a preschool teacher - say, guitarist Cynthia Burnson at her day job teaching toddlers - but O'Neill transforms them into come-ons from the devil himself.
Meanwhile, "Wowee Zowee" boasts lines like "I can tie my shoes in a double knot" and "I can touch my toes if I bend my knees" before bragging, "Wowee zowee! Whoop-dee-doo! There's just so many things that I can do." Pretty soon, it becomes clear the Pons are thumbing their noses at some mean ex, even as they boast about scrubbing their sinks, calling their moms and wiping their behinds. Their claims are pathetic, but their faux egos are so inflated that you can't help but giggle at the absurdity - and, perhaps, memories of yourself in a similar rage.
Maybe some of the kidlike charm comes from where the album was recorded, at a friend's garage down the street from Six Flags Great America. The sessions, over three weekends, gave the band lots of chances to gawk at the theme park's roller coasters and carnival games. And since the material wasn't finished, these sights may have seeped into their sound.
And like little kids, the band were very concerned about having to use the bathroom while in the studio. The place lacked a working restroom, so when the Pons say they're proud of their ability to wipe and flush, there's an element of truth.