The prolific Pond have now put out their sixth album in seven years. It’s a mighty effort for a band who are relatively new and still carving out an audience.
Man It Feels Like Space Again, should go a long way to cementing the group’s place in the music scene, both here and abroad. It’s a sprawling work that manages to combine rock’n’roll excesses with pop song sensibilities, creating a sonic landscape that demands the listener’s attention from start to finish.
There is a psychedelic revolution going on right now. In this country it can probably be traced to Tame Impala, a fellow Perth outfit with whom Pond shares very close ties (including some common band members). The genre is producing some very exciting music. But what sets Pond and their Perth siblings apart from some of the some other acts mining the same field is their ability to revitalise psychedelia, making it sound truly modern. Where acts like Temples in the UK are doing a very fine job of painstakingly recreating the vibe of the early 70s, they are not doing much to make it feel new again. And while the sounds of early Bowie and T. Rex are everywhere on Man It Feels Like Space Again, the modern pop synth swirl of MGMT is also there in equal measure.
It would be unfair to suggest, however, that this is merely a derivative affair; Pond defies cliché, carving out their own unique niche in the musical landscape. Their new album offers a kaleidoscope of sounds: fuzz, back-masking and even occasional programmed beats. It could very easily have ended up a mess (such as the impression left by Kasabian’s 48:13). But there is an assuredness of song construction on this record. Despite working in brash rock mode and a strong spirit of experimentation, there is also restraint. The excesses never dominate, only allowed off their leash with the 8 minute title track that closes the album.
With all the sounds here, there are moments where the swirling acoustics do render the vocals incomprehensible. But overall, the production is strong, providing clarity where it might have ended up an impenetrable stew.
The LP opens with a trippy waltz on “Waiting Around for Grace”: Bowie-esque vocals float over an organ before upbeat guitar and modern pop syth mark out the buoyant tempo that dominates much of the record.
The catchy lead single, “Elvis’ Flaming Star” continues in the vein of this strong, driving beat, but this time adding some electronica to mix.
Just to show us they can slow things down, “Holding Out For You”, has the feel of a hypnotic Lennon ballad if the Beatles had continued to make music through the psychedelic 70s. The second single, “Zond”, is similarly engaging, built around a trancy groove.
This is a band who don’t have to take themselves too seriously either, and the album is also a great deal of fun. Their cheeky sense of humour is particularly on display with “Heroic Shart”.
“Outside is the Right Side” is a stand out track, with phaser guitar effects over an infectious funk groove. Then with “Medicine Hat” we get a cleaner sound. It’s a bit like Space Oddity era Bowie singing a midcareer Dylan ballad. The song’s coda of lush guitars makes for some sweet listening.
The title track to end the record seems to throw all the ingredients into the mix in an ever changing psychedelic odyssey. It’s a very fitting way to finish up.
Pond are certainly a band to watch. With this album they have taken ownership of some old sounds, making them feel fresh again. It’s an effort that deserves to find a very large audience.
Man It Feels Like Space Again is out now from EMI Music Australia.
Catch Pond on tour around Australia at the Laneway festival.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor