Good psychedelic music has always been defined by how close it teeters to the brink of total collapse: after all, there is something sublimely exciting about music that feels as though it will buckle under its own weight at any given moment. Australian psych-rockers POND seem to know this well – their new album Man It Feels Like Space Again is overstuffed in a way that feels relentlessly compelling. The album is an excess of riches, and its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink attitude works wonders: this may well be the finest record the band has turned in yet.
Album opener Waiting Around For Grace begins with a devious bluff, coming on warm and fuzzy for a full minute until total sonic madness breaks loose. Elvis’s Flaming Star is steeped in nostalgia, but has enough energy to feel like a loving tribute rather than a stale rip-off, and the sonic breathing room it supplies the audience around the minute thirty mark ensures that it never becomes tiring or one-note.
Nonetheless, the stand-out of the album remains Holding Out For You. It’s a true gem: a spacey, laidback tune that comes complete with some delightfully semi-sleazy guitar work. Beginning as the auditory equivalent of a long, slow lick of the lips, the song builds to an ecstatic crescendo, pummeling its listeners into a state of subdued delight. It might actually be a little too successful, in fact: Zond, the next song on the album, feels oddly quaint by comparison, and leaves less of an impact than one might expect by the time it gently fades to silence.
I don’t know if it’s possible to hate a song called Heroic Shart: the gross-out humour of the title is made even funnier by the fact that it has been slapped onto such a grandiose, all-encompassing song. However, the juxtaposition between the mundane yickiness of the title and the far-reaching, pounding riffs of the song might be the key to POND: this is a band who reach for the edge of the cosmos, but do so with their feet humbly and firmly planted on the ground.
The six minute Sitting Up On Our Crane is built around an impressive vocal performance from lead singer Nick Allbrook, and Outside Is The Right Side boasts the most deliciously overblown guitar work of the entire album. Most impressively, just as things threaten to get a little repetitive, Medicine Hat kicks off with nothing but a voice and a guitar, demonstrating how effective the band can be even when stripped back. Although the song does inevitably build to a crescendo, its gentler introduction keeps things fresh.
Given this is a psych-rock record, how could album closer Man It Feels Like Space Again be anything but an eight minute, demented epic? But despite being predictably huuuuuge, dude it’s full of so many beautiful twists and turns that it never feels like anything but the insane conclusion such an insane album deserves.
The scope of the album is both impressive and faintly exhausting in the best possible way: listening to it from beginning to end made me feel like I needed a nap. Make no mistake, with Man It Feels Like Space Again POND have not only proven themselves to be one of Australia’s greatest psych-rock outfits, but a band sorely overdue a meteoric rise to fame. Even if this isn’t the album that grants them worldwide acclaim, it should be.