Attention earthlings: Pond is throwing the coolest party ever on the moon. And you’re all invited.
Especially if you’re one of those humanoids who somehow still regard Pond as the less talented kid brother of Tame Impala. On Man It Feels Like Space Again, Tame Impala vets and Pond founders Nick Allbrook and Jay Parker distance themselves even further from the genre giant they helped create with Kevin Parker. And that distance should be measured in light years.
Now on their sixth album, Pond bear a far closer resemblance to fellow madcap Aussies King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard than to Tame Impala, irreverent where Parker would have opted for sincere. See for yourself: Pond modeled their cover art after the exaggerated cartoons of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills jacket rather than the kaleidoscopic landscapes typical of Tame Impala’s aesthetic.
The music follows suit. Space Again finds its footing in sticky basslines, laser beam sound effects, hyperactive synth, and riffs that wink at the melody of “Space Oddity” – the ultimate cosmic jam if there ever was one. Don’t expect to drift among galaxies while listening, and don’t expect to resist bouncing along to the dangerously funky vibes. Funk-psych wasn’t really a thing a decade ago, but now it is the hottest thing around, making appearances in the mainstream thanks to Mark Ronson’s recent collaborations with – you guessed it – Kevin Parker. Bizarre as it sounds, the subgenre-defining tracks like “Outside Is The Right Side” on Space Again make it obvious we’d be fools not to ride this Motown-on-acid torpedo all the way out to the end.
Slightly moderated Hunter S. Thompson quotations about riding torpedoes aside, this album is one hell of a dance party. Bands like Pond rarely fit smoothly alongside Robyn and Sky Ferreira on Friday night playlists, but the get-on-the-floor crescendo of opener “Waiting Around For Grace” holds its own as a smart space banger. On the flipside, “Holding Out for You” and “Medicine Hat” are tailor-made for slow dancing with your sweetheart amidst a meteor shower.
But after a few nights of this, you can’t help but wonder if the neighbors on Mars have called to complain about the noise. The shtick – it’s psych…in space! – starts to lose its luster, the novelty wearing thin like a party carried on too long. So while Space Again is an enjoyable listen, perhaps it’s one best left out of daily grind. Disco balls at zero gravity stop being special if you see it all the time, you know?
The band takes a symphonic approach to the heavily instrumental closer and title track, moving through full orchestral movements as the album finishes. With mere minutes to spare, Pond argue that they’re a sophisticated psychedelic philharmonic, not a rock band. While the track itself is brilliant, squeezing a sonic argument of that scale into the final moments works against everything the band spent the last eight tracks cultivating. Theses go at the beginning for a reason. Pond learns that lesson the hard way.
Flawed it may be, but Man It Feels Like Space Again helps fill a planet-wide demand for intelligent, enjoyable psych. It’s an decent record and a groovy time. Best of all – it’s a not just a groovy time. It’s a groovy time…in space!