Nick Allbrook’s mongrelized psych rock group Pond has always placed a premium on fun. They can be transportive, absorbing or plain ridiculous, but the M.O. of entertainment has underpinned all of their work to date. A little lightweight at points, perhaps, but heady escapism at its best.
There’s a little something else in the mix on Pond’s seventh album, The Weather: ambition. The album — the front end in particular — is populated with punchy, glossy, oversized tracks that pull you in, don’t let go, and rattle around in your head afterward. Kevin Parker returns for an encore on production, and his widescreen cosmic vision has only grown.
Aesthetically, The Weather shares a deep connection with Tame Impala’s Currents. Glittering xylophones, blown-out guitar solos, chipped vocals, and drums that would fill a yawning canyon all show up for the party. Parker has decided to set up shop in this world for the time being, and the look suits Pond, particularly in their less self-serious moments.
You could hear Parker tinkering with these ideas on Pond’s last album, Man It Feels Like Space Again. Here, no idea is too grandiose, too expansive. Just take the single “Sweep Me Off My Feet”, which has been hanging around for 3 months and lost none of its luster. Allbrook’s self-deprecated persona reaches a feverish peak as he shouts “I am not an angel/I’m barely a man/I’m lonely but I’m here.”
Other lyrics are grim to the point where you’re not quite sure you’ve heard them correctly. Lead single “30000 Megatonnes” mixes nihilism with self-flagellation: “There’s 30000 megatonnes pointing at her… 30000 megatonnes is just what we deserve.” The song unhinges its jaw, aiming the destructive potential at a single person, then at all of humanity. The results are unsettling and stirring.
The Weather’s opening suite is incredibly strong (“Paint Me Silver” is similarly seductive), but some of it is less formed, more conceptual, and occasionally devolves into outright caricature. “Colder Than Ice” and “All I Want For Christmas (is a Tascam 388)” adorn themselves in 80s retro trappings, and both feel a step back for a band clearly trying to leap forward.
But when he finds a seam between the grotesque, the fantastic and the goofy, Allbrook’s vision for Pond comes into focus. And the former is slowly nudging out the latter. “Edge of the World. Pt 1”, which morphs from vampire funeral march to rock odyssey. “How can you smile/You must be sick or mad to stay on Earth,” ponders Allbrook. “A/B” pulls off a similarly hairpinned stylistic turn. The mid-tempo title track is perhaps the most stunning hybrid of the bunch, corralling the cosmic ooze into a plaintive finale that reconciles these competing emotions.
For his part, many of Allbrook’s songs and performances display a bullish confidence. And while tongues never quite depart cheeks, there’s a beating heart and a brain populated with real worries. Remove the undeniable blockbusters and The Weather is a little thin, but the sheer irresistibility of those peaks is more than enough to power it over the finish line. Dream big, gents. B