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Pond’s ‘Tasmania’ meets shallow expectations

| Thursday, March 21, 2019

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

Perth Australia’s Pond, one of today’s most popular psychedelic pop bands, is currently rekindling the style of the band’s 70’s psych-rock counterparts. Having released eight full-length albums since their debut with 2009’s “Psychedelic Mango” Pond has been awfully prolific over the course of the past decade. Unfortunately, the volume of Pond’s studio output pales in comparison to that of the band’s former drummer, Kevin Parker — who reached psychedelic stardom as the man behind indie rock behemoth Tame Impala. 

Parker’s popularity far exceeds that of his former band. His current band, Tame Impala, has become synonymous with modern psych-rock. Though Parker and Pond still collaborate — Pond members perform in Parker’s touring lineup and Parker co-produces Pond albums — the two projects are by no means equivalent. Pond’s latest LP “Tasmania,” which Parker co-produced, attempts — yet again — to raise the band’s profile in the psych-rock community. But, despite Parker’s help, the attempt falls flat. 

On “Tasmania,” Pond’s eighth full-length release, maturity of production and variety of sound are quite evident. Much like Tame Impala, Pond has evolved from a rock-focused, heavily distorted, psych band to a synth-based electro-pop outfit. The musical intelligence on Pond’s last two releases, “Tasmania” and “The Weather,” has far exceeded anything the band put out previously. “Tasmania” discards simple chord progressions and predictable song structure in favor of cosmic exploration. Many of the album’s tracks have no structure at all, only a drum line to tie the sound together — see “Burnt Out Star.”

Pond’s sonic evolution is not necessarily positive. The band has not perfected its ability to unwind rock songs into sprawling psychedelic journeys. The album’s ninth track, “Shame,” is terribly difficult to endure. The song bombards listeners with a structureless and bubbling stream of ghoulish ambience, underpinning Nick Allbrook’s whispering and whining vocals. The album’s closing track, “Doctor’s In,” is similarly malformed. The song never seems to settle into any sort of rhythmic consistency until the last minute, which features an excellent — though maddeningly familiar — guitar solo.

The album has all the elements of a truly good record, but it lacks cohesion. “Daisy” and “Burnt Out Star” are masterpieces of their respective genres. “Daisy” is a well-written electro-pop song and certainly an earworm, provided you don’t listen to it too often. “Burnt Out Star” is a psychedelic ballad, complete with a five-minute-long space-time excursion of sound. Both “Daisy” and “Burnt Out Star” stand out for their definition, embracing their respective genres. Other songs miss the mark, awkwardly toeing the line between pop and rock, losing their strength in the process.

Pond’s genre-bending psych-pop fills a unique niche in today’s alternative rock scene. The band aspires to Tame Impala’s mastery but lacks Parker’s clarity of vision. Furthermore, Allbrook’s vocals are near unbearable, casting a shadow over Pond’s unparalleled instrumental flare. Many listeners struggle through Allbrook’s nasally pouts and wonder whether the exceptional instrumentals are worth the screeching. With “Tasmania,” Pond sets out to produce a Tame Impala-esque album, but fails to do so.

Artist: Pond

Album: Tasmania

Label: Spinning Top Records

Favorite Tracks: “Daisy,” “Burnt Out Star”

If you like: Tame Impala, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Shamrocks: 2 out of 5

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