Pond – ‘Man It Feels Like Space Again’

Following the garage rock of 2013's 'Hobo Rocket', the Perth psych explorers present their eccentric take on pop

“The ultimate rock’n’roll cliché” – that’s how Nick Allbrook described Pond in an interview with a Tame Impala fanzine in 2012. The wild-eyed and loose-limbed frontman, who quit as Tame’s bassist in 2013, may have been joking, but he wasn’t wrong.

The Perth band – completed by guitarist Joe Ryan, keyboardist Jamie Terry, drummer Jay Watson and recently-departed bassist Cam Avery – have been picking different rock tropes and rendering them in their own unique psychedelic style since forming at a house party in 2008. Their first two records, the ludicrously titled ‘Psychedelic Mango’ and ‘Corridors Of Blissterday’ (both released in 2009), injected Pink Floyd prog with sun-baked looseness. A year later came ‘Frond’, a stomping album that took David Bowie’s Ziggy-era glam-rock by its sequinned lapels and infected it with a collection of cosmic choruses, none better than the riotous ‘Annie Orangetree’. 2012’s ‘Beard, Wives, Denim’ was a rootsy, big-riffing take on Led Zeppelin rock theatrics and Paul and Linda McCartney’s peculiar 1971 album ‘Ram’. On 2013’s ‘Hobo Rocket’, their heaviest work, they attacked White Stripes garage-blues with thundering rhythms and hippyish lyrics from Allbrook.

Now, on their sixth record in seven years, they’re taking on pop. Five-minute opener ‘Waiting Around For Grace’ sets high-pitched vocals about being “tired of being tired” to fiery synths, and the jittery groove of ‘Elvis’ Flaming Star’ owes as much to Michael Jackson and Prince as it does Bowie. The tracks are as out-there as the title (cooked up by Ryan while he was “high on some consumables”), and highlight the new ingredients Pond are working with for ‘Man It Feels Like Space Again’. There are significantly fewer vocal freakouts from Allbrook, more synths, and various examples of combining programmed and acoustic drum sounds. They sound cleaner than ever, even when they slow things down.

Like Procol Harum’s chart-topping 1967 single ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, ‘Holding Out For You’ makes prog accessible, burying sombre vocals under the keyboards before a breakdown that screeches like nails on a blackboard. ‘Sitting Up On Our Crane’ is lullaby-slow, underpinned by gentle guitar that flutters beneath Watson’s lyrics which, when intelligible, are downcast: “It always feels the same when we’re up high/’Cos I feel like I fall and die”.

Then the pace shifts again. The irrepressible funk of ‘Zond’ locates the album’s initial groove with a surge of powerful electronics and Allbrook’s urgent gasps of “Tell me what went wrong/What about Zond?”. With wah-wah licks and disco rhythms, ‘Outside Is The Right Side’ echoes Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, before ‘Medicine Hat’ uses synths and sparkling guitar to create a syrupy, immersive sound.

This wouldn’t be a Pond album without an in-joke or two, so nestled in the middle of the record is ‘Heroic Shart’ (a reference to a slang word for shitting oneself). It’s a sprawling ballad, Allbrook asking “would it set me free?” before the song plummets into an echoing pit of noise.

It all adds up to an emphatic showcase of Pond’s personality, and their ability to inflict their eccentric spirit on any genre they fancy. Perhaps, for a band as strange as this, making a pop album is the ultimate experiment. The results are anything but clichéd.