This review originally appeared on Tonedeaf.com.au
Having already released three full length albums it seemed as though Pond were intent on being able to fly under the radar of the mid-noughtie’s psyche-rock resurgence. Things however took a not so unexpected lift-off for the Perth natives, following high praise both at home and abroad, for their 2012 release Beard, Wives, Denim and the following year’s Hobo Rocket.
On top of the extra column inches Pond rather understandably reaped following these releases, each of the band member’s solo musical endeavours also began to garner further exposure in the musical press.
This included Jay Watson’s GUM offshoot, as well as Nick Allbrook joining forces with Cam Avery (Tame Impala & The Growl) to form Allbrook/Avery, and Joseph Ryan also released his solo album.
As a result the expectation levels for Pond’s sixth long-player Man It Feels Like Space Again, have reached an all time high for this bunch of psychedelia indulging misfits.
What can you expect from their latest album so?
Pond Are A Band Who Don’t Want To Be Typecast
Being able to precisely pigeon hole the Pond sound is no easy task, then again maybe that is exactly what has attracted an abundance of new fans to their cause, who it seems prefer the ‘lets just listen and enjoy’ approach. With Beard, Wives, Denim Pond combined their love of Detroit punk renegades The Stooges and MC5 with that of early era Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
While 2013’s Hobo Rocket was a slightly heavier affair, with a stoner rock vibe threatening to make an appearance, yet it managed to seem somewhat more concise and focussed than its predecessor.
However with Man It Feels Like Space Again Pond have succeeded in focusing more on the prog infused psychedelic-pop sounding elements of their earlier records. Considering this album was more or less written before Hobo Rocket was unleashed, it says a lot about how the band member’s mindset and writing styles work.
There is a clear tip of the hat to Mercury Rev all over the pop imbued album, no more so than on opener ‘Waiting Around For Grace’. It’s a track that leads you down a false lull-like path during the first sixty-six seconds before its bursts into a life all of its own.
Aside from the opening bass bars of ‘Elvis’ Flaming Star’ sounding a hell of a lot like ‘Footloose’, the track oozes pure pop throughout, with the slowed down mid section giving the listener time to take a breather, before it kicks back up a gear. Allbrook also manages to pull out his best glam-era Bowie impression while on vocal duties.
Infectious guitar riffs and catchy drum beats are prevalent throughout Man It Feels Like Space Again, which are clearly on show during the highly energised ‘Zond’ and the funk laden ‘Outside Is The Right Side’. The manner, in which Pond can change their style as easy as your average daily wind direction, is a credit to their creative prowess and musicianship.
Expect A Very Diplomatic Effort
The nine tracks on this newest freak-out trip are shared between the aforementioned Allbrook, Ryan and Watson. The former’s soaring lead vocal during ‘Waiting Around For Grace’ sounds effortless and affords the listener the perfect introduction to this multi-kaleidoscopic adventure.
The 1965 Mars IV satellite themed ‘Zond’ sees Allbrook include a variety of random hollers and yowls, while on ‘Outside Is The Right Side’ he is forced to battle against some louder instrumentation, but at times ends up getting lost amongst the fuzz.
Ryan’s ‘Medicine Hat’ meanwhile sees the group’s sound stripped right back, for the first half at least, as he channels his inner Dylan. Like the other eight songs on Man It Feels like Space Again, the track inevitably changes pace as it builds and builds with the aid of a rollicking electric guitar solo, however it highlights the fact that Pond can ‘do’ subtle when they feel the need to.
‘Sitting Up On Our Crane’ sees multi-instrumentalist Watson take a commanding lead for vocal performance of the record. It’s a track that if you close your eyes, takes you on a dream like journey, with its slow drum beat and atmospheric sounding guitar allowing ones imagination to run wild. It is also an ode to their former Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson; “All I wanna do is get drunk and listen to Dennis/WILSON/Coz he’s the man”
Expect A Very Personal Record
For all the talk that the main theme seemingly running through this album hinted at all things space and/or sci-fi related, it seems as though there are more personal thoughts and feelings on show here.
As upbeat sounding as ‘Waiting Around For Grace’ gets, the lines; ‘Place your hand on mine/You know it happens all the time/My hand is going white/Well, I couldn’t do you wrong if I tried” and “I’m tired of these goodbyes/Tired of all these weeping eyes”, may in fact be alluding to a broken or strenuous relationship.
Ryan’s delicate, nonchalant and woozy sounding ‘Holding Out For You’, pretty much says all it needs to in the title alone. A song of regret and seemingly self damning, Watson sings rather achingly; “I’m sorry I’ve caused you any pain/But please believe me when I try to say/I feel like I am going insane oh it’ll be better off this way”.
Comparing a souring relationship with one’s own decaying record collection, is one point of affiliation during ‘Elvis’ Flaming Star’. Just like an un-played piece of vinyl, one’s wobbly liaison with a better half, if not resolved can very easily gather dust and fall by the wayside. On it Allbrook despairingly states; ”Light up and colour code your old LPs/They never turn no more/It’s just the garage door that rattles to the floor/Every morning separating you and Caroline again/The look in your eyes, it looks like the twilight/Of your life.”
For an album that includes such an array of varying soundscapes, imagery, and song structure, Man It Feels Like Space Again feels like Pond’s most cohesive work to date. As a collection each of the nine tracks flow rather fluently into the next, with none ostensibly out of place.
A point that can be expediently alluded too when you get to the eight minute finale, ‘Man It Feels Like Space Again”. It’s a song that jumps from one mini-world to another like the flick of a switch, where its harmonies sit perfectly alongside the fusion of intensely calculated instrumentation and manically programmed bleeps.
No doubt Pond will continually find themselves thrown in with every other psych rock or psych garage list going, but they have proven beyond doubt with this latest record they are prepared to venture further and further out into the stratosphere, given the opportunity.
Man It Feels Like Space Again is available via EMI