Pond - 'Hobo Rocket'
We’d be remiss if we didn’t get off our arses and post a
review of one of our favourite local bands, Pond, after we got a hold of their
newest album ‘Hobo Rocket’. The project band of former Tame Impala member Nick
Allbrook with Jay Watson (Tame Impala, Gum), Cam Avery (The Growl, Tame Impala),
Joseph Ryan, Jamie Terry blah blah you
get the idea all of these guys are all intertwined in each other’s projects.
The issue I have, and I know many people have, is how quickly people are to
lump them all into one group as sounding similar. This creates expectations
that they should all sound as psychedelic as Tame, or that The Growl should
sound as retro-rock as Pond and so-on and so forth, but as a Perthian and
long-time listener of most-all of these projects; they are ALL very unique.
As I just mentioned, on ‘Hobo Rocket’, Pond are laced in retro-rock, delving into the most erratic elements of rock from decades gone by and exaggerating these in a well-executed and unique tic-tac of energy. What I’ve always felt probably lacked on the other Pond records was that final touch of character and personality, or just that extra something special that you just can’t quantify on albums. Beard, Wives, Denim came very close, however it was produced for the most part by (at the time) still-rookie producer Kevin Parker; this added character but probably took a little something away from the final product, though clearly KP has come a long way since BWD’s recording in 2010.
Something worth noting is that this album (and the next Pond album), were recorded a long time ago, over late 2011 and early 2012. However with mixing members, come Modular forcing different projects to push back their release dates (note that Allbrook did make the decision to leave Tame Impala earlier this year). So what we’re getting is something that was recorded a long time ago (in music time) and probably conceived even longer ago.
The album kicks off in classic Pond fashion with Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide?, that builds into a raucous mid-tempo almost Black Sabbath-esque jam (see: Sweet Leaf). On show hear is the clever use of piano that you almost don’t notice as you get lost in the slow fadeout, but definitely holds the track together. Single Xanman speeds in with an uptempo guitar-riff driven melancholy before roaring into the anthemic chorus; this track has long-been a live favourite of Pond’s, around Perth at least.
The Flaming Lips come to mind on O Dharma, with the slow track layered in smooth, airy vocals washing over you. The guitars on this track are executed to perfection to aid in carrying you out in euphoric bliss, and definitely capture a live vibe, rather than a harsh over-produced studio guitar. The next track Aloneaflameaflower drift in with a similar fashion, slow and soothing; but as the vocals enter the guitars are used to create a tense atmosphere, as the angst in Allbrook’s voice become clear. The bass lumbers in and adds to it all before a seeming youth rushes in and picks things up and smashes that angst in the face (only to have it come creeping back in). Black Sabbath influences feature heavily here also.
Giant Tortoise captures Pond at their psychedelic best, relying heavily on structure to add drama to the fuzzy guitar riffs, grungy bass and washed out vocals. The constant “up-down” motion of the song work perfectly with the internal-struggle (and perhaps contradiction) in the lines,
“Dream to sleep out in
to the kind, the fragile heart
and am I too young to be tired?
give on, don't prove me wrong. “
The title track, Hobo Rocket, features Perth lad Cowboy John on vocals, while the guitars have an almost Indian sitar feel to them. The vocals are groggy and aid to again create that disorientating notion that is becoming ever-present. The drumming comes to the forefront in parts on the longest and final track Midnight Mass (At The Market Street Payphone); accompanied by probably the best use of vocals on the album. And I emphasize use because the lack of vocals for most parts on this track are so very important in allowing this track to communicate with each listener; but the listener is really looking within on this track. It reminded me so much of the instrumental stretches of Pink Floyd and The Doors, and their ability to force people to get lost in the music with their brains unknowingly on.
Hobo Rocket is short and sweet, or “Brief and Dark” as it has been described. Jay Watson said "This album is supposed to represent that thrill that I get watching Youtubes from [the Beard Wives Denim] era,", "That thrill that we never had on record. This was our attempt to make it tuneful, not just yelling and throwing each other around."
I’d say for the most part they have achieved this, but with something more. There is something deeply emotional in this album, and at times you’d almost say it’s zen-like, wrapped in pieces of magic. But of course, we can all acknowledge how hard it is to make a perfect album; and Pond probably has fallen shy. Personally, I’d like a bit more lyrically from Pond, which probably contradicts some of the things I’ve said above, but to give direction to the listener in those sprawling spaces of magical music. Similarly, where there is lyrical content, sometimes it lacks clarity, and needs a few rewinds to grasp exactly what was said. This is Pond though, and I don’t know that you could risk changing them.
At only 34 minutes long, you’d probably be thinking you’ve been swindled something a la Keyser Soze, but what you’re getting is 34 minutes of pure good music; which is probably what you’d get on a normal 50-60 minute record anyway. The music is real, and the album is a real gem.
Hobo Rocket will be released Friday week on August 2nd; support local music and buy a copy!