Review Summary: A psychedelic freak-fest.
For anyone who isn't quite familiar with Perth's cosmic wunderkinds, Pond have steadily been gathering a lot of mainstream recognition as distinguished gurus in the current re-blooming of the psychedelic mindset. Although Pond shares most of its members with Tame Impala, and even cater to a similar demographic, each band offers their own distinctive brand of '60s-inspired psychedelia. In fact, it's almost like we're being given two different stylings of the same entrée. Where Kevin Parker seems to take the role of a young Brian Wilson, composing florid tunes that are driven by deep emotion, Pond season their music with a satisfyingly aggressive demeanor that takes its influences from the likes of Blue Cheer and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. In a sense, Pond can be viewed as the 'anti'-Tame Impala; a heavier and more dynamic version.
, while perhaps not being their finest effort to date, certainly showcases an untamed spontaneity that lives up to the group's previous freak-outs. This is an orphistic album of sorts. While Pond are certainly working with a palette that is similar to Kevin Parker's own, their compositions are based on a moderately abstract concept that goes beyond exhibiting colourful vibrancy and dream-like wonder. The agenda in Hobo Rocket
is one that continues along the work of its predecessors by unionizing atmosphere and energy. Hobo Rocket
takes the band's newfound admiration for mellow ambiences in Beard, Wives, Denim
, and incorporates them with the amplified assaults of the first three albums. "Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide"" and "Aloneaflameaflower" are an example of this 'best-of-both-worlds' offering. Here we'll find everything from echoing sonics and dream-pop assertions that keep the listener afloat in a cloud of halcyon splendor, to fuzz-toned heaviness that knocks the listener out like a mean hit of potent weed. While "Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide"" might seem like the more alluring track in comparison, in the way that it accentuates its mood swings with clever hooks and catchy jam breaks in between -- Pond even squeeze in a riff "similar" to Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" to initiate the heavier sections --, "Aloneaflameaflower" is the track that manages to balance intensity and ambience in both a tasteful, yet bombastic fashion.
While "Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide"" comes off as just an explosive opener for the album, "Aloneaflameaflower" takes its time to find the perfect balance between melody and ferocity. "Aloneaflameaflower" is a slow burning track, taking the listener through vast, scenic bridges and exposing us to the most bizarre spectacles that Pond can conjure up. This song is layered with trippy components for a heightened sense of disorientation; from fuzzed-toned grooves to the delicate, yet droning echoes of the keyboard, each element compliments one another to emphasize the song's drug-worshipping vibe. Nick Allbrook also gives one of his most erratic performances here, starting off with a gentle croon to allure us into an 'acidic' euphony, before switching into screeches and harsher tones as "Aloneaflameaflower" transitions into a 'Master Of Reality
' kind of jam. "O Dharma" is one of the few tracks that trades away the ultra-heavy riffs and distorted onslaught for a genuine '60s aura. "O Dharma" draws an obvious influence from vintage psych-pop numbers like The Monkees' "Porpoise Song", as it emulates the flowery melodies and 'Krishna-conscious' attitude of the time. This is, without a doubt, the major highlight of the album. The way it seems to both musically and sonically sway around the senses, it's the feel-good, hazey rock tune that all neo-hippies yearn for.
I have to say, that as a longtime fan of Pond, I am quite pleased with Hobo Rocket
as a whole. After surprising fans with their mellowest album to date, Beard, Wives, Denim
, it's a predictable decision for Pond to try and please fans by releasing an album that aspires to meet all demands -- in this case, composing an album that reprises the heavier sound of their early work, while remaining focused on their path to laid-back hippie-rock. And yet, Hobo Rocket
doesn't quite feel like the home run hitter that Frond
and Beard, Wives, Denim
felt like. While Hobo Rocket
's batch of abstract pop songs might satisfy fans, a number of them don't raise any bars or offer an experience that is outstandingly memorable. Songs like the noise-rocker "Xanman" and the whimsical title track, in particular, feel completely void of any instantly invigorating qualities. Perhaps they'll appear as growers that get stronger with repeated listens, but they hardly contain anything that makes that effort worthwhile. Call it catchiness, charisma or that undefinable quality that draws you closer to a song, to me, these tracks simply don't have it. Luckily the album has more standouts than flops. Main highlights like "Aloneaflameaflower" and "O Dharma" display a sage-like understanding of psychedelia, and while they may not be shy about wearing their influences on their sleeves, they definitely add their own touch of weirdness and cleverness that makes their sound oddly unique. Hobo Rocket
is definitely an overall fan-pleaser, and one that compensates for Beard, Wives, Denim
by mutating its 'flower power' whimsy into an erratic display of mood swings and horror-show theatrics.