Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Pond - Hobo Rocket

Before the plaudits had even finished rolling in for Tame Impala’s acclaimed Lonerism, Nick Allbrook was announcing his intention to quit the Western Australian rockers in order to focus on Hobo Rocket, the new album from Tame Impala’s sister act, the experimental collective Pond.
So what has Allbrook learnt during his time touring the world? Mostly that it’s pretty fucked up, but whilst conspiracy theories and crackpot messiahs abound here Hobo Rocket also comes across as the most focused Pond album to date.

As you would expect from a record from one of the leading lights of Australia’s burgeoning psych scene this latest effort is a mishmash of chopped up tape loops, Cream’s heavy riffs, and the early psychedelia of Skip Spence or Syd Barrett but whilst, for example, their second album Corridors of Blissterday was cut live with an eight piece band in just five days here Pond make do with a mere five members and an increasing interest in songcraft over sound effects.

After the slightly directionless MGMT meets The Black Keys opener ‘Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide?’, the first real killer ‘Xanman’ rolls into town like every Paul McCartney-Beatles track played at once; its fried groove and proto hard-rock strut pitching Pond once more as a band out of time.

Elsewhere ‘Midnight Mass’ rumbles like Black Sabbath with Allbrook delivering keening vocals before giving way to a horror movie style mid-section and a final epic guitar flame-out. Where once the Aussie rockers made music to explore the universe inside their heads, now it seems as if they’re only too aware of the dark places this can lead you. If this is music to take drugs to then there’s no guarantees of a good time.
‘O Dharma’ nods to the baroque pop-classicism of Love’s Forever Changes or The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper but compared to the Crosby Stills Nash-esque harmonies of 2010 breakthrough Beard Wives Denim, Pond have actually shifted closer to the heavy and dense sound inhabited by Tame Impala. Even lead single ‘Giant Tortoise’ shimmers with reverb and heavy guitar breaks, leaving it up to the disturbing hobo rant of the title track to supply the album’s quota of true weirdness and it is this which hints at Pond’s greatest weakness: for all their talk of cosmic exploration they’re not covering a lot of new ground.

Endlessly restless Allbrook has already hinted at a forthcoming companion album Man It Feels Like Space Again, which would lean close to their jam band roots but if phasers, flower power and forty minutes of fried psych-rock is your thing Hobo Rocket is a great place to start. Just don’t expect anything you haven’t heard before.


Max Sefton

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