Man It Feels Like Space Again
I’m not quite sure what’s going on in Australia these days, but based off the recent influx of innovative psychedelic pop bands from Down Under (Tame Impala, John Steel Singers, Blank Realm) someone might want to check the water for traces of DMT. Often lost in this Aussie Invasion is the outlandish, psych-outfit, Pond. Many may see them as a side-project to the more widely popular Tame Impala (only one member of the band hasn’t served time with Pond), but this is an unfortunate misconception.
Pond’s latest release, Man It Feels Like Space Again is evidence that these Vegemite stoners deserve more credit for the mind-expanding mischief they’ve concocted over the course of six albums. Not that you should take their bubbly, far-out mix of melodies seriously – these songs are meant to be silly and fun. It’s this complete lack of pretension that makes their rumpus ride more deserving of accolades from psych-pop aficionados. In fact, that refusal to take themselves too seriously helped to make the Pond listening experience stand in stark contrast to their more well-known brother-band, Tame Impala. While Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker ponders the emotional struggles that come with loneliness and isolation, Pond opts to sing songs with titles like “Elvis Flaming Star” and “Heroic Shart” (yes, “shart” – that magical contraction of the words “shit” and “fart”).
This type of folly is just a portion of the evidence of the band’s sense of freedom on their most adventurous album yet, Man It Feels Like Space Again. Musically, the band is just as feral, each track leapfrogging from one legendary 70s sound to the next. “Zond” and “Outside is the Right Side” are wacked-out, funky prowlers that resemble a collaboration between Funkadelic and Frank Zappa (Frankadelic?). “Elvis Flaming Star” and “Holding Out For You” are what it might sound like to experience an acid trip through Marc Bolan’s eyes. “Heroic Shart” and the eight-minute closer “Man It Feels Like Space Again” ignite a full-fledged psychedelic prog-trip to the dark side of the moon.
But the album isn’t all disorienting, cosmic 70s genre jumping. Album highlight “Medicine Hat” starts out as a bare-bones, folk song about seclusion. The song, along with “Sitting Up On Our Crane,” provide moments to gather your wits amidst the madness, beautiful tracks that reveal that Pond doesn’t always need sputtering synths and woozy guitar pedals. The folky simplicity of “Medicine Hat” slowly builds, with layers of synths expanding with each verse and a George Harrison guitar riff arriving just as the celestial haze has begun to settle.
While all this 70s genre dabbling makes for an adventurous listen, the true brilliance of Man It Feels Like Space Again is the band’s ability to hold the chaotic ride all together with a backbone of warm synths and glam rock sensibility. In the early 70s, the rock scene was dominated by an overly serious prog-rock movement, and then along came a couple guys named Bolan and Bowie to remind us that rock music is supposed to be fun with their over-the-top, other-worldly approach to songwriting and performing.
Pond has that same piss in the wind attitude on their latest effort, not worrying if their homage to over-indulgence annoys you or not. Think of it in terms of the modern day cinema classic “Step Brothers” – Adam Scott’s character of the older brother is clearly more successful, but it’s a lot more fun watching the shenanigans of the unmotivated, goofball brothers played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reiley. Maybe Tame Impala will always be the over-achieving shadow cast over Pond, but I still enjoy the rampant childishness of the slacker off-shoot. Now if only we could get them a gig at a Catalina Wine Mixer.