Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier once remarked in a press release for their record La Isla Bonita, “We don’t set out to create masterpieces. The Deerhoof fan is a thrill-seeker”. That descriptor once summed up exactly how I felt about Australian psychedelic rockers Pond. On reflection, I was engaging in a false dilemma where if their brothers in Tame Impala were the more consistent and considered band, Pond would necessarily be the more spasmodic and thrilling, though ultimately less rewarding of the two.
That attitude changed the more I became familiar with 2015’s Man It Feels Like Space Again. It demonstrated a vast improvement in songwriting without losing any of the humour or unpredictability that characterised Pond to that point. A sonic shift also occurred as synthesizers smoothed out the sharper edges of their sound where guitars once dominated.
How you feel about The Weather will depend on how you embrace a further step in that direction, towards a silkier, smoother Pond, free of many of the abrasions that could have been barriers to entry on previous records. In a press release, frontman Nicholas Allbrook described The Weather as a concept album “focusing on all the weird contradictory things that make up a lot of colonial cities around the world”, informed by their experiences of their Perth home. It’s a focus that has inspired, in my mind, Pond’s best album to date.
Opener ‘30,000 Megatons’ stops just short of unleashing what you may have been expecting from a song so-titled, but it’s slow crescendo allows Allbrook time to set the scene, ruminating sardonically on his country and humanity with references that only natives of Australia and its politics will appreciate: “I’ll not stand for Maybelline or Kyle and Jackie-O, or my sunburnt country burning people I don’t know”. What follows are probably the two most immediately likeable songs in Pond’s catalogue. ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’ contains one of the most grandiose choruses you’re likely to hear all year, and twisting your volume knob towards “MAX” will aid you in getting…err, swept up in Allbrook’s pleas.
The following ‘Paint Me Silver’ is probably the prettiest thing Pond have ever released, and rides a wave of synths and falsetto to a near-transcendence I wish they let play out a minute or two longer. The Jay Watson penned ‘Colder Than Ice’ with its thick bass line and shuffling beat is the first track on The Weather that sounds even slightly weighted to earth. Sydney’s Kirin J Callinan lends vocals and sounds right at home alongside Watson who combine to ensure “c-c-c-c-colder than ice” is as addictive as the drug it’s written about.
The Weather’s first four tracks certainly contain its most memorable tunes, and from here certain moments tread perilously close to aimlessness. That being said, no song is completely without redeeming qualities. ‘Edge of the World Pt. 1’ remains in stasis for two minutes before we hear anything of real interest, though what follows is one of the albums most rewarding moments, with a finale that explodes like an acid-fuelled reimagining of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’.
‘A/B’ is a welcome reminder of just how thrilling and abrasive Pond can be before it 180’s into a tender piano ballad. It doesn’t change course once it starts but Allbrook’s earnest delivery is enough to make the 2-minute drift worthwhile. ‘Edge of The World Pt.2’ is one of the more interesting journeys of style in a song I can recall recently. What starts as something resembling the darker moments of Cocteau Twins’ Victorialand bridges an epic Floydian finale with a brooding middle of synth arpeggios. I’m not sure it flows successfully but by the time it gloriously climaxes with chants of “If Gina Rinehart gets you down!” among other Australian in-jokes, you will have likely forgotten exactly how it ended up there anyway.
Perhaps it was the focusing nature of the album’s concept that brought us Pond’s best. Or perhaps it’s simply the time-honoured tradition of a psychedelic band bringing their experiments towards the centre to positive effect (See: Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Animal Collective, etc). Pond’s incremental rise has been joyous to watch unfold and it has crucially been without sacrificing any of their lovable selves along the way.
by Lewis Barker