With its sixth album in as many years, Pond, an Australian band with members who also play in Tame Impala, has kicked its love affair with blues-metal riffs. Still hell-bent on pursuing a stadium-size psychedelic sound, Pond is now taking things slower, embracing synth-heavy, sleepwalking songs that seem to float a galaxy away from the group’s 2013 Hobo Rocket.
Part of this stems from how the two albums played off each other while Pond worked on both. As Exclaim! reported, much of what became Man It Feels Like Space Again was written by guitarist Joe Ryan and drummer Jay Watson and shelved for later. Most of Hobo, by contrast, was steered by frontman Nick Allbrook; he left Tame Impala two years ago to focus on Pond.
The cross-pollination between the bands leads to inevitable comparisons. Tame Impala won indie acclaim in short order on the strength of its lustrous flower-pop beauties from 2012’s Lonerism. Though Pond existed first and by several years, it was Tame’s success that enabled Pond to secure a presence at festivals and ride that wave for the next few records.
But Pond’s latest seems to stall somewhere between an odd conceit: groggy tempos and heart-pounding dance. One style is constantly at odds with the other. For a band so quick to hat-tip Butthole Surfers and the Flaming Lips, the record’s two best songs are especially out of place: “Medicine Hat” is an acoustic gem with a penchant for the Rolling Stones at their most stripped; “Sitting Up On Our Crane” is pure Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd until the one-minute mark, when Space Again truly takes off.
“It’s pretty rare that you hear stuff that’s truly original,” Watson told Pitchfork last year. “I would expect to hear some more original stuff around, but it’s hard to do that.” It’s a telling remark, and begs the larger question hovering over Pond, Tame Impala, and the abundance of other psych-rock groups: How to push the genre out of the void and into new space? For its part, Space Again sounds lost in orbit.