Pond – ‘Beard Wives Denim’

A psych-rock band that doesn't forget to pack the fun

The last time Tame Impala played in London, literally every musician who has ever said the word “psychedelic” in an NME interview was present, because they’d all had their heads bent by their fabulously acid-drenched album ‘Innerspeaker’. So drenched was it, in fact, that many of those musicians suspected that there must be something in the water down under in Perth. This record – the fourth by Pond, who feature members of Tame, but are NOT a side-project – confirms those suspicions. It is also miles better than ‘Innerspeaker’, and quite possibly the best album released so far this year.

The gleefully silly blurb that comes with ‘Beard Wives Denim’ notes that Pond were “determined to pursue their goal of living out the ultimate pop career cliché from start to finish” and that the next step was supposed to be “a not-as-good follow-up to the studio pop album”. It continues: “This step didn’t sound so great, so Pond skipped it and went straight to the next rock’n’roll archetype – the country getaway to rediscover their love of making music and find God and grow beards and chop wood and all that business.”

If MGMT (with whom Pond have toured) had followed this path and made this album and not ‘Congratulations’, they would be the most adored band on the planet. There are a load of new bands who sound like they’ve got really cool psych record collections, but who are actually very boring, and think wearing paisley and closing their eyes while they strum makes them ‘out there’. Pond sound like they actually are out there, but they also sound like a big bowl of fun, and have had the decency to write at least seven amazing pop songs. I haven’t seen them live yet, but I bet they play with eyes wide open.

Opener ‘Fantastic Explosion Of Time’ sounds like The Stooges playing an early Kinks raunch-rocker for a ‘Nuggets’ compilation. It’s explosive and brilliant, but also dwarfed by everything that follows. They team this and a couple of others along these lines (‘Leisure Pony’ being another superlative example) with Zep-funk monsters like ‘Elegant Design’ and ‘Moth Wings’, and more meandering things like ‘Sorry I Was Under The Sky’ (which could easily have been on ‘Innerspeaker’). And there are mini-epics – one of which is, quite fantastically, entitled ‘Dig Brother’ – that twist and turn and speed up and slow down and build into preposterously exciting high-energy interstellar overdrives. ‘Beards…’’ was made by 10 people in one room, in two weeks, with no-one sleeping.

You can tell: from the way that the beginning of every song is littered with coughing, people “Woo!”-ing, amplifiers buzzing… but mainly because the whole thing just feels so alive.

Hamish MacBain

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