Hobo Rocket

It can sometimes be difficult to take Pond seriously, with their muddled together but frenetic collage of rock and roll, created by wide-eyed young men abundant with energy and with a devoted grasp of the absurd. With Beard Wives Denim and now Hobo Rocket, they have consolidated themselves as the more fun and rambunctious younger brother of Tame Impala, with the latter’s two albums firmly informed by Kevin Parker’s more misanthropic decree. Pond, led by the eccentric man-boy Nick Allbrook who left Tame Impala in May 2013, are a band exaggerated, forever young, and in some ways a bit preposterous with their high camp theatre and psychedelic rock that seems like a soundtrack to a kitsch rock opera at times. It may be garish, but it is entertaining, and Hobo Rocket is a more compact, direct and even shameless statement of all the things that make Pond so attractive.

Hobo Rocket is Pond’s fifth album but only the second to be noticed by anyone outside their Western Australia homeland, their profile transformed thanks to them signing with Modular Recordings in 2011. Whereas Beard Wives Denim was over 54 minutes in length, their latest is only 34, with the conspicuous absence of any drawn out instrumental jams or wild groove-based passages (with the notable exception of the quintessential title track). This new structure to things (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘tightness’) reveals some hugely energising songwriting, emitting an audible warmth from Allbrook and his friends as they explore their outer reaches of their own exuberance through Bolan-influenced glam, uncomplicated riffs and Allbrook’s shrill vocals.

The album’s bluntness is encapsulated on opener ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide’ with its balance between simmering understatement recalling The Doors’ more bearable moments, and some of the most flagrantly obvious rock and roll motifs discoverable. This huge sound, with layers of guitars in tandem with organ, and drums that suggests a familiar obsession with ‘When The Levee Breaks’, is repeated on the very enjoyable single ‘Xanman’ as well as the rather more interesting ‘Giant Tortoise’, which has as a more thoughtful darkness to its volume, rather like George Harrison’s ‘Wah Wah’. A softer approach is found with ‘Odarma’, one of the more outstanding moments of Pond’s existence, a quite beautiful stumble through a gentler take on early Pink Floyd and the Flaming Lips, Allbrook’s vocals much more resonant when out of scream-mode.

That title track is where the band appear to have the most fun. Here, Perth ‘personality’ Cowboy John, perhaps the hobo in question, rambles barely comprehensibly over a track that features drummer Cam Avery on a sitar, sounding like he has picked the thing up for the first time a few days before recording. It is an amusing diversion, complete with fade-out-then-in ending excruciatingly imitative of both ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Caroline No’.

This more lithe and economical album in many ways proves that Pond have taken a further step towards genuine maturity, but it does still seem rather thrown together and the result of a scattergun approach to both composition and arrangements. This is more pronounced when compared with the painstaking accuracy of Tame Impala’s production, which has a body and foundation to it that Pond’s far-out experimentation lacks. It seems flimsy, as if a core strength is missing. But surely, this is Pond’s point, to set themselves up as a less serious version of Tame Impala, without the emotional gravitas and without the artistic certainty. Hobo Rocket is a (brief) journey without maps, and is to be enjoyed rather than contemplated.

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