Pond are routinely mislabelled a Tame Impala side project. Sure, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker has produced the bulk of the Fremantle band’s back catalogue and Pond’s core members have all contributed to the Tame Impala live experience, but Pond has never been a mere sideline.
Led by one of contemporary Australia’s most compelling frontpeople, Nicholas Allbrook, Pond specialise in what is most expediently described as psychedelic rock music. On record they’ve always displayed a sort of yin-yang dynamism, splitting their time between out-and-out riff monsters, like “Giant Tortoise”, and mid-tempo psych ballads, such as “The Weather”.
Pond are partial to lipstick-smeared glam rock numbers, such as “Xanman” and “Elvis’ Flaming Star”, and can write permeable pop hooks, as seen on “Sweep Me Off My Feet” and “Paint Me Silver”. Pond’s latest album, 9, is perhaps the most dance-oriented release in the band’s catalogue, while also drawing attention to Allbrook and co.’s enhanced songwriting smarts.
Ahead of the album’s release, Allbrook spoke of wanting to harness “abstract messiness” on 9. This shines through on the album’s lead single “Pink Lunettes,” the lyrics of which reference German visual artist Gerhard Richter, anise-flavoured liqueur, Coney Island and Canadian newspaper, The Star, without clarifying what connects the slew of signifiers.
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Allbrook and his multi-instrumentalist band mates, Jay Watson, Joe Ryan, Jamie Terry and James Ireland, went into 9 eager to change it up. “I think we were starting to repeat ourselves more and more,” Allbrook said in an interview with Tone Deaf last year.
In Allbrook’s own words, Pond’s preceding LPs—such as 2019’s Tasmania and 2017’s The Weather—were dominated by “pseudo-whimsical, pseudo-psychedelic climate change-o ballad[s] with some nicely arranged major seventh chords and some fat Juno-6 and a real gnarly riff at the end.”
The idea for 9 was to go completely off map; for the band members to let their freak flags fly. “I actually imagined this album being like a double album, 35-songs, sort of [like] Royal Trux/Ween, sweeping up every bit from the barber shop floor, making Tusk on meth,” said Allbrook.
But despite Allbrook and co.’s stated ambitions, 9 is one of Pond’s most accessible records to date. It’s a relatively lean, nine-song and 39-minute affair, accommodating deviations into synth-punk and indie rave without abandoning the band’s essence. “It’s pretty on brand, how it turned out in the end,” said Allbrook.
The three singles that followed “Pink Lunettes” offer a snapshot of the album’s variety. “America’s Cup” challenges “Sweep Me Off My Feet” for the title of Pond’s most charismatic pop song; “Toast” is a wistful, downtempo valedictory to a year gone by; and the lusting “Human Touch” is as hot and heavy as an indie rock song can be without violating listeners’ personal space.
9 demonstrates Pond’s ability to keep evolving as songwriters without forgoing the effervescence that has always underpinned their work. Dating back to their debut album, 2009’s Psychedelic Mango, Pond’s recordings have displayed a spirited and oft-explosive sense of in-the-moment joyfulness. The band’s first few LPs left something to be desired in terms of cohesion and quality control. “It was so silly and so throwaway and so fun at the beginning,” Allbrook said. “[We were] truly just not giving a fuck and committing the stupidest shit to record and releasing it around the world.”
But the band members’ focus has sharpened at the same time their creative curiosity has blossomed. Allbrook told Tone Deaf that he and the rest of the band “care so much” about the music they make these days. “I love making good records,” he said, and 9 reaps the benefits of Pond’s more exacting methods.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Pond’s pre-eminence in the live arena. Back in 2015, when Pond were touring their sixth album, Man It Feels Like Space Again, I wrote a review suggesting they should be the first act drafted for any future music festival, be it big or small. I stand by that claim today—the average Pond live show might include a heavy portion of “psychedelic climate change-o ballads,” but there’ll also be a complete lack of self-seriousness and plenty of carousing from all involved.
Pond will be on the Sunshine Coast next week for the launch of Jack Daniel’s Live At Last, a concert series celebrating the return of live music in Australia. Jack Daniel’s are directing 100% of Live At Last ticket sales to Support Act, the music industry charity delivering crisis relief services to musicians, managers, crew, and music workers who have been unable to work.
After the series launch on the Sunny Coast, Live At Last heads to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with performances from Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, San Cisco and Ruby Fields respectively.
Jack Daniel’s Live At Last Tour 2022
Tuesday, April 12th
SolBar, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Thursday, April 21st
Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Sunday, April 24th
Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday, April 28th
The Espy, Melbourne, VIC