Younger siblings don’t have it easy. Comparisons are inevitable; they are always judged against their elder siblings’ success. If, God forbid, they go into the same line of work, they know they will never hear the end of it.
Pond may be an accomplished band in their own right – now five albums in – but it’s hard to talk about them without mentioning their big brother, Tame Impala. They are both musical collectives from Perth, they both specialise in psychedelic stoner rock and they share three members. The difference is Kevin Parker’s group captured critics’ hearts while Pond, fronted by Nick Allbrook, simply hasn’t.
One thing you can’t criticise them for on Hobo Rocket is sticking to the same sound. The range of influences and instruments used on the record is quite stunning. On opener ‘Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide?’ alone, it goes from twinkling guitar strums with hazy MGMT-like vocals to bombastic, crashing blues riffs and then closing with static drones. It’s an enjoyable, slightly confusing journey.
For the next track ‘Xanman’, the band attempt to tighten proceedings up. The result is a satisfying piece of psychedelic-pop you could play all day. Just as you think you’ve tired of it, the final, stupidly large riff kicks in like it’s the harbinger of an earthquake and you’re reaching for the replay button again. If everyone didn’t pirate music these days, it would be tempting to say ‘worth the price of the CD alone.’
After that, the more chilled out vibe of the next few songs is a relief. ‘O Dharma’ is refreshingly straightforward with a sweet, gentle melody and dreamy vocals, however Pond are up to their old tricks again before the half way point.
The album may feel short, clocking in at seven tracks and just over half an hour, though that’s not for lack of ideas. Plenty of double albums have had less imagination put into them. It feels unfair to compare a record this eclectic to anyone else, but it’s hard not to wonder how Kevin Parker would have handled these ideas if they had been brought to Tame Impala sessions. Probably better is the frank answer. There are too many moments where the songs simply drift, waiting for the jam to end, or a promising idea fizzles out.
Regardless of who they are being compared to, this is a mixed album. Certain tracks like ‘Xanman’ and ‘O Dharma’ hit the nail on the head, while others get lost below waves of experimentation. If you’re into psychedelic rock, buy it and give it the benefit of the doubt. Just don’t go expecting Tame Impala.