Album Review: POND – Man, It Feels Like Space Again

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Fuark, would you look at that album artwork? Ben Montero, you’ve hit it out of the park…looking at the new POND album, without even having heard a song, you can tell that you will enjoy this album. One would have to be a cynical dick on par with a reincarnated Albert Camus who’s decided to become an editor at Pitchfork. And even then it would still be hard to resist the pull of an album cover so brilliantly exuberant. Rockstars and rocket ships combine in a crowded watercolour that would have Monet slashing at his shitty waterlilies. Damn, Montero, you sure know how to do a fucking album cover.

But what lies beneath the album cover. Sure, there’s been plenty of great album covers, and shitty albums. But never fear, because POND know that if they’re gonna have the gonads to hire Ben Montero to do the best album artwork ever, they better come prepared. You mess with the bull, you get the horns, or something to that effect.

Put bluntly, ‘Man, It Feels Like Space Again’ is a triumph. It oozes and pulsates with the sort of fucked up nonchalance that only an act like POND can pull off. There’s so much genuine oddity that unfolds over the course of the album that you’d never doubt for a second that Nick Allbrook, Joe Ryan and and Jay Watson are total freaks, but it’s so goddamn loveable that it feels like you’ve made the best new friends you possibly could. It’s like striking up a conversation with a hobo that offers you acid, and finding out that it’s just a dishevelled Jim McGuinn.

The freak flag flies high on the album, as guitars noodle, basses throb, synths signal the end of the world as we know it, and drums plod along with their eyes closed and grins plastered right across their heads. But then again, they always have, ever since the days of “Psychedelic Mango”. This time around, there is a lot more confidence, coherence and belief between the three that they are doing a really great album. They offer diversity, manoeuvring between surefire soon-to-be POND classics like “Zond” and “Outside Is The Right Side”, to something more experimental, like the acoustic Dylan-esque crooner “Medicine Hat”, and the warmly sci-fi “Waiting Around For Grace”.

The ability to flip between crowd-pleasers and introspection, and never lose the ability to write a really great song – that’s what makes POND the album that we adore. There’s hardly a falter or misstep, and yet each track feels uniquely its own. Put on “Zond”, and those squelchy blasts of flamboyantly-fucked guitar will force your limbs into all sorts of wacky angles. “Outside Is The Right Side” will have you strutting down the street like Stevie Wonder, throwing the moves like Patrick Bateman. And then, you can dissolve into bliss as the theatrics fall behind, and something like the title track takes you on a spiritual journey, the sort they only promise in cults.

POND have outdone themselves. They’ve presented us with something that looks, tastes and smells as organic as someone’s body odour after a week living on mushrooms in the Amazon. But enough exposure to some of the shit that psych can throw at you shows that this is a carefully plotted album. The production is spot on, not as squeeky as a Chilli Peppers album circa-2001, but not dirty enough to play a show in a basement of the local punk club. “Man, It Feels Like Space Again” rips into the stratosphere, on the search for new territories, and thankfully manages to bring along every listener for the ride.

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Video: POND – Elvis’ Flaming Star

POND have always been a band with a penchant for the theatrical song titles. “Betty Davis (Will Come Down From the Heavens to Save Us” anyone? But this time round, “Elvis’ Flaming Star” is a succinct and powerful name, in the exact same way the song in question is.

Once again POND are stretching themselves into another gooey form, a psychedelic shapeshifter, and this time round, they’re like Saturn’s version of David Bowie. That’s not just because of the alien goggles and barrage of coloured slime in the video either. They’re euphoric and funky, breaking the rules in a glammy and extraordinary way the same way Bowie did way back when. And they’re doing it in this completely alien fashion, dissolved and freaky sounding from the core. Chuck that “Bohemian Rhapsody”-like roller coaster theatrics next to a video of VHS madness consisting of nature beating the shit out of man, and POND’s galavanting return is a welcome one. They make psych music not boring, and that’s a feat a lot harder than it sounds like.