Music Reviews
Hobo Rocket

Pond Hobo Rocket

(Modular) Rating - 4/10

It used to be that psychedelic rock was about expanding your senses, as a salvo of gnarly fuzz guitars, hallucinatory visions, and acid-inspired sounds would ease your mind into a good trip. It’s still a common debate whether half of the acts in the sixties actually were truly influenced by psychotropic drugs, but it was more plausible then to believe that it was such the case. There’s no doubt that the current surge of psych rock comes from an appeal to follow a counterculture mindset, though the differential parameters now are much less discernible. It’s more about following a counterculture appearance, and our current political environment is just a slight concern in our comfortable lives instead of becoming a be all and end all cause that makes us react by means of escape.

Meaning that psychedelic rock has become angrier, which may play a role in altering one’s emotional instability. But it’s certainly not the drugs. Perth, Australia revisionists Pond are one of the few current acts that approach it with an unconstrained looseness, treated with a jokey nonchalance that adequately befits a “far out” state of mind. Their last release, Beard, Wives, Denim, played with improvisational scales without losing sight of a pop record’s attributes, culminating into an outburst of creativity that never overstayed its welcome despite its hour-long length; it should've been leaner, but their ability to draw outside the lines made it a fun and unpredictable guessing game. And though they share a strong linkage with Aussies Tame Impala [three of the members are in said band], their hazily phased textures were just transitory excursions instead of compromising to create an engaging album experience.

Except that witnessing Tame Impala’s success must’ve got to them, as Hobo Rocket has the makings of a brash, self-important conceptual piece that couldn’t possibly announce their presence any louder. Pond are looking to reintroduce themselves with the fierce, swaggering opener Whatever Happened to the Million Hand Collide, a classic rock-indebted cut that begins with a warped Bo Diddley beat before it erupts into an explosive barrage of Zeppelin-approved riffs and bombastic drum beats. It’s a powerful way to start a record, and a savoring one at that, so why not raise the bar with the grandstanding pompousness of Xanman, an all-too-cool, titanic hard-rock cut that treads unfamiliar territory for them, much in the same way the Beatles deliberately wrote Helter Skelter in an attempt to amplify their sound as loud as possible. Its barreling drums and sampled horns are meant to be commanding to say the least, throwing cock-humping, tactless riffs into a batter as they merge into a shrieking wall of noise that fizzles with hardly any emotional effect.

Pond’s overweening hubris couldn’t be any more blatant in the meant-to-be-slyly hypnotic O Dharma, which enlightens us with turgid poetry – love turns black everything turns grey – whilst eschewing a patchwork of Middle-Eastern tropes and translucent, floaty synth textures to justify its ludicrously stupid title. But their resolute “more is more” adherence rapidly takes a nose dive with dud of the year contender Aloneaflameaflower, which sports a thick, goopy prog-sludge riff atop mystifying howls and screams before it turns into a flashy, heavy-handed space-rock extravaganza that even commits the worse sin of all: stopping midway through all the semi-improvisational madness with the sole purpose of letting vocalist Nick Allbrook spout inanities like “bleeding hearts for the bleeding heart” over a bulked-up, yet brain-dead Emerson Lake and Palmer impromptu. Their journey into a far-out sound begins to take a questionable route, since they can’t decide whether to piece together a coherent experimental approach or capriciously transition through every stylistic art form of drug-induced psychedelia the seventies brought to the fore.

It’s in their trying to toughen up their candy-colored psychedelia that Pond loses their field of vision, embodying a parodial manifestation of machismo that comes off sounding confused and empty of content. There’s nothing wrong with going rogue when trying to differentiate yourself from your peers, but their guitar wanking calisthenics and volatile shifts in tempo proffer a devolution of sorts, which is a shame because they were just about beginning to hit their stride. Pond constantly struggle to find a balance between prog, classic yuppie rock and psychedelia in Hobo Rocket, cramming a cheat sheet of tired rock trappings and psychedelic clichés that were already fatigued even before corporate rock detoxified its very essence. But Pond do live in far better times, so you can’t blame them for trying to congregate the bohemians with the suits.