Genre: Psych Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Daisy”
Somewhere along the way everyone convinced themselves into thinking cleaner is better. Every new apartment building has to look like a Macbook, each new restaurant has to use a sans serif font, there’s no room for an app with harsh edges. Just a bunch of flat, saccharine bullshit with zero personality. A presentable facade completely devoid of substance underneath.
The latest victim is Pond, a psych rock band from Australia that has succumbed to the glitzy, sexy allure of poptimism. While this is a migration that has worked for many, it’s a strange path to take for an outfit that just four years ago positioned itself as the gritty alternative to their longtime friend and producer Kevin Parker’s pop turn—their 2015 counter-programming, MAN IT FEELS LIKE SPACE AGAIN, was a heroic dose of psychedelia mixed with cocaine karaoke vocals courtesy of Nick Allbrook. Dynamic and tactile from start to finish, MAN IT FEELS LIKE SPACE AGAIN filled every last nook and cranny in the mix with a colorful splattering of sound and some of the year’s sweetest earworms. Fans of INNERSPEAKER-era Tame Impala flocked to it in favor of CURRENTS, while most everyone else ignored it. Pond’s follow up two years later, THE WEATHER, was a minor step backwards, but didn’t read like an artistic compromise.
TASMANIA, on the other hand, is frustratingly bland. Even the shortest tracks on the record are excruciatingly long, rarely building anywhere past an intro and, on the rare occasions when they do, there’s little to get excited about. “Burnt Out Star” is especially baffling, hogging up over eight minutes of runtime that plods with a snoozer of a lounge beat for six minutes before phoning in a rock finale with toothless guitars and the shittiest sounding drums Kevin Parker has ever produced. The four-piece flirts with their older hits on tracks like “Daisy,” a tedious rehash of their 2015 opener “Waiting Around For Grace.” While “Waiting Around For Grace” packs the thrills of a ride on a shoddily constructed wooden rollercoaster, “Daisy” feels like the hour-and-a-half wait in line for said attraction.
TASMANIA repeats this time and again, passing off flat, washed-out products that don’t even come close to their artistic ceiling. The greatest tragedy is the band’s decision to dial down Allbrook’s vocals. His voice used to dominate tracks, carrying the rest of the instruments in tow, but on TASMANIA, Allbrook is entirely forgettable; the aptly named “The Boys Are Killing Me” melts his vocals into the synths, which works for bands like My Bloody Valentine, but completely fails here when the instrumental is so dull. In live shows, Allbrook uses every last bit of his vocal range in a manner that’s borderline concerning, but for this record’s tour he’ll be able to take it easy, as nothing on the album so much as sniffs the exertion of their past discography.
Even the album art is a condensed compromise of their past. TASMANIA’s looks like they ran MAN IT FEELS LIKE SPACE AGAIN’s cover through an algorithm that picks out the the 12 most prominent hex codes from an image and neatly lays them out. It’s fine enough at first glance, but when viewed in context of the past, it’s a truly head-scratching choice. But why the compromise? The lineup and producer haven’t changed in over a decade. Their last record charted a bit lower than the one prior, but not enough to warrant this shift. If anything, the thinking would probably be to get weirder. It could be an attempt to court the Triple J audience which has started to trend away from indie in the past few years, but not enough to leave off fellow Aussies King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Whatever the motivation, hopefully it won’t persist past this record, although I wouldn’t hold out hope seeing as it’s tied for their highest charting record in Australia and the growing popularity of Tame Impala will provide more than enough runoff interest in the band.