Spinning Top Records / Caroline · March 1, 2019
Aussie psych-rockers Pond follow up their nihilistic psych-pop album The Weather with their strongest and most innovate sound yet on their newest LP, Tasmania. Produced by Kevin Parker, and considering a few of Pond’s members tour for Tame Impala’s live shows, Pond seems to have taken a similar trajectory in musical sound as Parker did with Tame Impala’s 2015 Currents. Moving further away from 1960s style, raw psychedelic rock heard on earlier albums such as Psychedelic Mango and Beard, Wives, Denim, Pond has evolved to a more energetic and self-aware 80’s new-wave meets 70’s funk style.
In “Daisy,” a beautifully optimistic picture begins to unfold as “the cherry blossoms sprout” and subdued strings lift up the listener. Within a single minute, reality unfolds as the strings climax and cease. Nick Allbrook contrasts the previously delicate lyrics with a new image in which nobody hears him crying in his sleep and “Me and the men of the frontier stack the bodies in a heap.” With a strong leading bassline, a desolate world is painted in which Allbrook reminisces through questions “What about the empire? / What about the cross?” but hope glimmers through in the outro as he promises of a future in which, “When I see you next year I’ll be perfect.”
“Sixteen Days” which Allbrook claims as “about, once upon a time, being jealous and paranoid, too ground down and mad to enjoy love and Genoa” was originally released as a single for the album alongside its hilarious yet surprisingly sexy video. The ’70s VHS quality of the video, oiled-up bodybuilders, and shirtless, glitter-covered Allbrook perfectly encapsulates the funky new era of Pond — heavy synth, modulated voice effects (not too far off from those heard in the bridge of Tame Impala’s “Let It Happen”), and celestial chimes blast the listener into a sequined world of distinctly catchy psychedelic funk.
The funk continues with the title track, “Tasmania,” as crisp bass slaps into a sexy beat backed by light xylophone. The ’70s vibes are led by 21st-Century lyrics as Allbrook addresses climate change and how he “might go shack up in Tasmania / Before the ozone goes / And paradise burns in Australia.” In true Pond fashion, the song ends with an unmistakable guitar solo and eventually fades into equally irresistible “The Boys Are Killing Me.”
“Hand Mouth Dancer” fires into new-wave sounds with oscillating synths accompanied by a subdued and echoed Allbrook whose modern, climactic guitar shreds into socially poignant lyrics that call attention to “the actual heroes, dying to get the kids to France / Silenced by their class, silenced by their caste.” After bringing light to current political crises, Pond signals to the listeners that sometimes all we can do is dance the pain away as he calls one last time to “kiss me, I don’t care” and launches into a celebratory, futuristic minute-long breakdown of steady drums and glitched synths.
“Burnt Out Star” brings the listener back to Pond’s psychedelic roots as they gently glide into a mystical soundscape of twinkles and Jay Watson serenading the listener through the chorus. Similar to their 2015 song “Zond,” which is about a failed Soviet space mission, Pond once again makes allusion to Cold War symbology and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union through cryptic and symbolic lyrics in “Burnt Out Star.” Repeatedly shouting “1917,” the year of the Russian Revolution; referencing Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital whose architecture is inspired by the Soviet Union; and the title, “Burnt Out Star,” can be associated with the star found on the flag of the Soviet Union. The end of the song implies that our current world political system may not be too far off from the treacherous turmoil that the Soviet Union faced — “Yeah, it’s 1917, 1917.”
Self-aware of current social, political, and environmental crises, Tasmania is ultimately a beautifully crafted sister album to The Weather that paints streaks of optimism in an otherwise pessimistic looking future. Strong bass, powerful guitar, catchy and fresh beats, and their most cognizant lyrics yet lead Tasmania as Pond’s strongest album to date. Ultimately, Pond is the only band that could make dancing to our graves so much damn fun and that is exactly what they have done on Tasmania.