Pond is a band that does not rest. Their debut in 2009 has been followed up by five more albums, the most recent being 2015's Man It Feels Like Space Again. While six albums in six years isn't too mindblowing, the fact that members have been part of a slew of side projects (Tame Impala, Allbrook/Avey, Mink Mussel Creek, The Growl, three solo albums in 2014, and many more) over the years, as well as international touring as Pond and with Tame Impala for the better part of the last three years surely marks them as one of the more hard working groups in modern music.
While their motivation and work ethic hasn't changed, their music most certainly has. From their debut of a poor attempt at experimental rock, they morphed in to a worthy psychedelic rock group, leading the neo-psych movement. Their sound has evolved further on Man It Feels Like Space Again, with a clear funk influence seeping through. If their 2012 album Beard, Wives, Denim was a 'band' album, and 2013's Hobo Rocket was a guitar album, their latest album is undoubtedly a keyboard album. Most of the songs main driving force in terms of progression revolves around Jamie Terry on synth and keys, the great drumming of Jay Watson (who I assume did all the drumming in the studio, since he's done the drumming live) also is one of the highlights.
At its highest, Man It Feels Like Space Again has some of Pond's most ambitious and charming works, and at its lowest, has some of their most generic and average tracks. The opening duo of 'Waiting Around For Grace' and 'Elvis' Flaming Star' kick the album off flawlessly. The former sets the tone for the keyboards prevalence on the album, high in the mix and leading the song in the direction of it's choosing. The way in which the vocals work with the instrumentation is really magical, and it may very well be among the best songs in their discography. 'Elvis' Flaming Star' was the first single released from the new album, and despite its short running time of 3 and a half minutes, manages to seamlessly move from a fast paced psychedelic funk track to a slower, lofi folk middle section, and back out again.
The undoubted masterpiece of Man It Feels Like Space Again is the 8 and a half minute title track that closes the album. On their previous albums they've had their more intricate, abstract song to finish (Eye Pattern Blindness and Midnight Mass from their last two albums), and this is no different. The relatively lengthy (relative to the 20 minute prog epics) psych/prog suite opens with a Beatles-meets-Yes intro, which devolves in to an Olivia Tremor Control with lots of keyboards middle section of simple melodies slowly ascending that then turns into a funk Gong-esque groove, with the keyboards again coming over the top. The song morphs back in to some previous styles and moves on to some others, and is flawless from beginning to end. Easily the highlight of the album, and perhaps their finest point ever.
While those three tracks mark the highest points of the band, there is still an entire album left. These range from good funk (Outside Is The Right Side), good noisey garage rock (Heroic Shart), and decent enough psychedelic folk rock (Holding Out For You). All of these tracks on their own are good enough, but none of them strike me as extremely interesting. The downpoints of the album are surely the strangest or most bland songs, namely the space dance funk weirdness of Zond, the Jay-Watson-really-wanted-to-make-an-80s-pop-opera-track Sitting Up On Our Crane, featuring the least interesting electronic percussion I think I've ever heard, and finally the acceptable but non-inspiring Medicine Hat. Zond is just too weird and not substantial enough to warrant the left-fieldness of it. Sitting Up On Our Crane sounds too much like every track from Jay Watson's solo album from 2014, which in itself sounded like mostly very average Pond songs that didn't quite make the cut. Medicine Hat suffers the same, in that it sounds just like Joe Ryan's solo album tracks, but at least has some cool guitar work at the end.
While they don't reach the overall standard that Beard, Wives, Denim set a few years ago, they have continued to change their sound and have created what might be the highlight of their careers with the title track on Man It Feels Like Space Again. The highs are among the highest points the band has gone, and the lows aren't all that terrible either. As the band continues to grow, I hope they'll play around with even more styles, and continue to tour endlessly and release music under the seemingly dozens of side projects.
01. Waiting Around For Grace (5:09)
02. Elvis' Flaming Star (3:25)
03. Holding Out For You (4:43)
04. Zond (4:04)
05. Heroic Shart (4:04)
06. Sitting Up On Our Crane (6:00)
07. Outside Is The Right Side (5:09)
08. Medicine Hat (4:07)
09. Man It Feels Like Space Again (8:21)
mp3 v0 - Australia - 2015