Tame Impala’s sky-rocketed success last year, off the back of their sophomore scorcher Lonerism, had many wondering if fellow Perth psychedelic rockers Pond were just behind them in line to take on the mantle of Australia’s Next Big Thing. After all, the two Aussie bands share the same hometown, record label, operate within a similar generic space, and even have some of the same members (though Pond is a collective, where folks seem to come and go).
Pond, too, delivered a solid release last year in Beard, Wives, Denim, their fourth LP, which had a certain leading UK music publication lauding them as ‘The Hottest New Band In The World’ (while Lonerism went on to take their Best Release of 2012 prize). Following their frontman Nick Allbrook officially departing Tame Impala earlier this year, after a five-year stint in the band, to focus on his other band (and to “try and screw his head back on”), Pond return to the fore with Hobo Rocket.
Clocking in at what comes across as a very speedy 40 minutes across seven tracks, Hobo Rocket feels like a collection of quick, loose and unbridled jams. It kicks off with the menacing ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Heads Collide’, which starts with a throbbing baseline and explodes like a bad trip into an all-out psych-epic that sounds slightly like a dystopian MGMT or Empire of the Sun. Other highlights come in the album’s first two single releases; the space rock jam ‘Giant Tortoise’, and the rollicking ‘Xanman’ with its distorted and appropriately mind-melting video, respectively.
The lowlight is that the songs feel somewhat inaccessible; fairly unmemorable, and devoid of strong hooks in either guitar or vocal melodies, the latter problem being largely due to ever present distortion that renders them practically indecipherable. In a recent interview with Faster Louder, Allbrook said, “We did (the album) live, and it’s jammy and sloppy as shit. We were just gonna do it as something throwaway and quick and easy, and then we got carried away,” which perhaps explains the prioritisation of groove over songcraft.
Hobo Rocket may not be the band’s best album to date, especially in light of their super-tight standout Beard, Wives, Denim – but, if the question is whether its rough, shambolic sound makes you think it’d be completely off-the-chart in a live setting… absolutely yes it does, and that’s really the aim of it. It demonstrates that rather than being just a side-project to a more commercially and critically successful cousin, Pond are an entirely different beast in their own right – and no less a force to be reckoned with.