Pond – Stung!

An ambitious and often thrilling return...

Pond are often defined by their close association to Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala. Over the years, the line ups of both Aussie bands have, at times, been interchangeable – each of Pond’s core members playing within Kevin Parker’s touring ensemble (multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson is still a full-time member of both bands), while Parker, himself, has lent hand to Pond album production duties on several occasions. 

But where Tame Impala went stratospheric after 2015’s ‘Currents’, Pond’s success has been more modest in comparison. Of course, that’s not to say they aren’t still worthy of similar intrigue. Since 2008, they’ve been on an eclectic psych-rock journey of their own, reaching peak levels on 2017’s breezy and funky ‘The Weather’.

Three years after their acclaimed last album ‘9’, arrives ‘Stung!’: another similarly ambitious effort featuring an exciting mix of sprawling psych-rock, immediate indie-pop and funk. Ten albums in 15 years is certainly no mean feat and the Perth band’s latest puffs its chest out to stand up alongside the rest of them. A smorgasbord of ideas brimming in confidence and light. 

You can almost feel the flickers of sunlight hit your eyelids on smooth opener ‘Constant Picnic’ – a track complimented by the subtle, percussive brilliance of drummer James Ireland.  Following this, ‘(I’m) Stung’ is Pond at their festival-ready anthemic best. The explosive title track (well, kinda) is carried by shimmering guitars, exploring romantic rejection and the efforts to sound cool about the whole thing: “And what I feel don’t matter, baby / As long as you’re having fun / Well, I’m stung” laments singer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Allbrook. 

On ‘Stung!’, Pond excite most when contrasting upbeat vibes with lyrical restlessness. The menacing funk of ‘So Lo’ channels Prince while echoing – on purpose or not – the more experimental side of The 1975, its groove-laden sound contradicting Allbrooks sad boy vibe: “No / I feel so low / I should’ve learned by now to keep my expectations / Low”. And later, on the punk-swaggering ‘Boys Don’t Crash’, Allbrook admits that “I’m so tired of living / But I don’t want to die”, a track too catchy and earwormy to ever get lost in self-pity.

‘Last Elvis’ is another explosive burst of catchy power pop and infectious melody, though its eight-minute epic ‘Edge of the World Pt. 3’ that acts as the record’s highlight centrepiece: a captivating journey of psychedelic indulgence containing droning organs, flute and saxophone solos, as well as heavy space-rock ambitions. Following a false finish, the song builds to a theatrical Pink Floyd finale to raise the drama furthermore. 

Arriving at 14 tracks spread over an hour, it would be remiss to mention that ‘Stung!’ might be a little on the long side (at least, at first), certainly their longest yet anyway. But with music this exhilarating, Pond’s buzz eventually lands a memorable sting. And if this doesn’t help climb them from Tame Impala’s shadow, nothing will.

8/10

Words: Matthew Mclister

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