Review: Pond – Hobo Rocket
Published on July 30th, 2013 | Edwin Gilson
Pond: “like Tame Impala with a 13-inch dick!” So one wag exclaimed at the SXSW festival in Texas this year. The band must be sick of these constant comparisons to their ‘sister’ group Tame Impala, largely because they are a wholly different proposition. Hobo Rocket is a case in point.
For one thing, endearingly wired front man Nick Allbrook is far more likely to scream “come on!” before launching headlong into a crunching Black Sabbath riff than Tame Impala’s more contemplative, more psychedelically inclined Kevin Parker.
While louder and heavier doesn’t automatically constitute ‘gutsier’, Allbrook’s Perth gang should be praised for having the self-confidence to make, in their words, a “full-on crazy fiend rock and roll album”. Hobo Rocket is not so much Tame Impala with balls as Tame Impala on speed. As Allbrook asserts on the otherwise charming “O Dhama”, “If you mother fuckers don’t like it, you can all get out”.
At times the record is almost too frenetic, with opener “Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide” in particular flitting around wildly before eventually breaking into an apocalyptic groove that sees you home, disorientated but exhilarated. Despite being (or at least claiming to be) bona fide nutcases, Pond have the good sense to follow up this potentially alienating track with the glorious, glamorous “Xanman”, which has about seven choruses, each more triumphant than the last.
The accessibility of the song lies in Allbrook’s Bowie-esque vocal style on lines like “Won’t you hold my hand, man?” This is interesting, as in an interview this week he admitted to being a “crummy singer”. Well, this is not as much of a problem as you’d think here, because every syllable he utters is distorted beyond belief; the guitars and synths too are produced to such an extent that they often change tone in the middle of a certain passage.
Indeed it’s tempting to wonder how Pond would sound if they were robbed of their pedals and effects boards. Hobo Rocket‘s heavy texturing means that, where many bands would employ more traditional breaks and fills in between verses, Pond simply indulge in multi-layered wig-outs until the next ecstatic chorus arrives. It’s a trick that works for them here, but they should be careful about repeating it too much in the future.
Hobo Rocket‘s otherwise appealing schizophrenia overflows into something that is downright irritating and borderline unlistenable on the meandering “Aloneaflameaflower” (with a name like that, was the song ever NOT going to be annoying?). Luckily, the swirling bliss of single “Giant Tortoise” follows; it’s a perfect example of how, when done right, Pond’s sudden, searing guitar lines can work in tandem with the tone of the song.
Here, a riff that is almost reminiscent of Guns N’ Roses tears into glimmering synths, making for the closest thing to an ‘air guitar’ moment in recent indie rock history.
Things take a turn for the (even) weirder on the title track, with Pond’s friend and Perth local legend Cowboy John taking over vocal duties. Well, to be more precise, he slurs his way through a largely inaudible spoken word passage in the manner of an Australian Mark E. Smith.
The only line that breaks through is the question “What kind of drugs you guys on?” We’re waiting for your answer, Pond, because we want some of this Hobo Rocket medicine too.
Closer “Midnight Mass” is a strange beast; the first half of the song varies from reflective ambience to doom-laden power chords, while the second sees a beautiful, remorseful guitar line take over. It summons the image of an elderly person looking back upon their life and wishing events had unfolded differently, which leaves the album cloaked in regret.
Pond have little to be sorry about at the moment, though. In an age where Australian psychedelic music is booming, their relentless energy and thrilling boisterousness marks them out as so much more than just a Tame Impala side-project.
Hobo Rocket will be released on August 4th by Modular Recordings.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!