One of the most thoughtful and artistic psych albums in years.
In the light of November 9th’s sober and defeated morning, “30000 Megatons” awaited Pond fans. Spurred on by producer Kevin Parker, the band impulsively released it as a response to the confusion of that day. “I look out at the mirror, look out at the world/ 30000 megatons is just what we deserve,” sings Nicholas Allbrook over a tense synth that continually loops and loops until it explodes into a mess of skronk guitar and a relentless kick drum, a countdown to end times. As an explanation for its earlier than planned release, the band simply stated: “This song was going to be released with the rest of the album but today it seems like the right time.”
The Weather, Pond’s seventh album, captures the chaotic feeling of the earth spinning off of its axis in 2016 and the bleak aftermath of it that we all now face in 2017. It celebrates and humanizes both the general and the personal – the band’s hometown of Perth (“Edge of the World” parts 1 and 2), Christmas (“All I Want for Xmas (is a Tascam 388)”), lovelorn pleas (“Sweep Me Off My Feet”) and the unpredictable nature of the world (“The Weather”). Pond’s music has been frequently described as schizophrenic, but The Weather is nothing but focused. They’re clearly on a mission as each song is a little prog-pop classic that expresses a microcosm of emotions.
The aforementioned “30000 Megatons” sets the scene, but the one two punch of “Sweep Me Off My Feet” and “Paint Me Silver” unleash a technicolor dream – the former with bright chimes, finger snaps, faded “ahh”s, and the hilarious line: “Between my penis and my chin/ Is camembert and shame.” “Paint Me Silver” samples a brief, two-second guitar bit from Todd Rundgren’s Utopia’s “Cosmic Convoy” and stretches it out into a groovy, euphoric riff that twists and bends and shimmies all over the room. Allbrook’s vocals are appropriately dreamy, all reverb and echo as he declares, “Bring me Louise Cartier, I need a diamond halo for me and my seven billion brothers.”
With Allbrook leading the charge lyrically (all but two songs have lyrics primarily written by him), there are plenty of name drops, obscure references and inside jokes that pop-up throughout the album, all wrapped together under a self-deprecating veil of optimism and dread. Richard Branson, Gina Rinehart (Australia’s wealthiest individual with a fortune built on mining), someone named Kyle, Jackie O, Sir Ian McKellen and “Ringo-Fucking-Starr” are among the many names mentioned throughout the album. Allbrook’s style of heavy surrealism may be jarring and seemingly incomprehensible at first, but the more The Weather is given room to breathe, the more his lyrics come into their own.
Take, for instance, “Zen Automaton.” Beginning with the heavy intro of “A zen automaton couldn’t crack that koan and drive up the sword of human guilt right up to its diamond hilt” and winding through “Holy shit is that Sir Ian McKellen leaning from the clouds/ Shooting lightning from his eyes all across the Burmese crowd,” it’s a heady mix of the real and unreal, all built-up over a sliver of a reversed, percussion sample. In a world that increasingly feels like it’s detaching itself from reality, Allbrook’s lyrics take on a poignant confusion; we all know we’ve fucked up, but how do we recover?
On the other hand, “All I Want for Xmas (is a Tascam 388)” is a light-hearted escape from reality as guitarist Shiny Joe Ryan strings bright Christmas lights around his plea for a Tascam 388, one of those beautiful tape-based 8 tracks that would brighten any band’s holiday season. Ringo-esque fills close things out in a delightfully goofy manner. “Colder Than Ice,” primarily written by now-bassist/former drummer and guitar player Jay Watson, similarly paints a more light-hearted visage. Its ‘80s synths and drum machines give the impression that it was an imagined intro for a semi-serious sitcom from the same era and Watson’s silky smooth delivery sells it as he “skulks through the suburbs.”
The epic prog of “Edge of The World Pt.1” and “Edge Of The World Pt. 2” zoom into the band’s hometown of Perth and all of the messy emotions that come about with hometown pride and hate. Both begin as dreamy psych before unleashing an array of explosive drums and guitars, the latter imploring listeners that even “if the violence gets you down/ If your own faith gets you down,” that at the very least “we’ve got the water.”
The curtain drops with The Weather’s title track, a “Halleluhwah”-inspired groove that launches the band into deep space. Jamie Terry’s extraterrestrial synths warp and wash over each other while that heavy beat quickly fades into the ether, leaving a lingering feeling of hope.
The Weather is a cautious leap into the unknown of modern times. In a way, it’s almost comforting to know that the Pond fellas are just as confused as we are. Thankfully, in their quest to find answers, they’ve bestowed upon us one of the most thoughtful and artistic psych albums in years.