Perth-based act and JOVM mainstays POND — currently, creative mastermind, songwriter and producer Jay Watson (vocals, guitar, keys, drums, synths and bass), who’s also a touring member of fellow Aussie JOVM mainstays Tame Impala; Nicholas Allbook (lead vocals, guitar, keys, bass, flute, slide guitar and drums); Joe Ryan (vocals, guitar, bass, 12 string guitar, slide guitar); Jamie Terry (keys, bass, synths, organs, guitar); and Jamie Ireland (drums, keys) — have released a handful of critically applauded albums that have seen the band’s sound gradually morph into increasingly synth-driven psych pop.
2019’s Tasmania is POND’s most commercially successful and critically applauded album to date, with the album debuting at #15 on the ARIA album charts and #2 on the AIR Independent charts. Conceived as a sort of sister effort to its predecessor, 2017’s The Weather, Tasmania thematically is a dejected and heartbroken meditation on our current sociopolitical moment: planetary discord, water and its dearth in much of the world, machismo, shame, blame, responsibility, love, and the impact of colonial empires. While accurately capturing the restless, anxious dread that most of us have been feeling, the album doesn’t completely wallow in self-pity and fear. Rather, it encourages the listener to celebrate and enjoy the small things of life while we still can.
The Perth-based JOVM mainstays ninth album, the aptly titled 9 is slated for an October 1, 2021 release through Spinning Top Music. Produced by the band’s Watson and Ireland, 9 reportedly sees the band pushing the sound they’ve established and honed over the past few albums even further while attempting to recapture an anarchic sense of uncertainty. “We sort of gave ourselves permission to make something stuffed this time,” the band’s Nicholas Albrook says in press notes. “We’d settled into a pretty tight routine with the last few albums and wanted to shake a boat with this so we started off with filling a few tape reels with some absolutely heinous improvised sonic babble which, after much sifting, became the first few songs of the album. We also wanted to up the tempo. The last few albums have a neat little mantra or repetitive theme. If I was forced to find something like that in 9, I guess it would be ‘biography’ or ‘observation’ – a lot of the lyrics seem to focus on single people’s lives, or the lives of small moments or small things when you zoom real close up and they reveal something deeper. Stuff like my cheap Chinese slippers, or a soiled teddy bear, or Agnes Martin (not to put them in the same category, although maybe Agnes would’ve appreciated it). In the Rorschach test of re-reading lyrics, one thing that sticks out is a fixation on leaving behind a time of golden optimism and uncynical abandon. We can’t look at ourselves the same anymore, and the world we’ve built provides a scary lense [sic] for viewing our past.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Toast, a slow-burning and atmospheric song featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, squiggling blasts of guitar, a gorgeous string arrangement, some mellotron and a soaring hook paired with Allbrook’s plaintive vocals. The end result is a song that seems equally indebted to Avalon era Roxy Music and Quiet Storm R&B. But lyrically, the song addresses the massive bush fires that devastated much of Australia and the inequality gap in Allbrook’s Western Australian hometown.
“Human Touch” is an uptempo banger centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, buzzing bass synths, scorching feedback and distortion, a relentless motorik groove, blown out beats and a rousingly anthemic hook. The end result is DEVO-like thrasher. POND’s Nicholas Allbrook describes the inspiration for the song, saying “one time a woman was smashing up a car outside my house, begging me to help her steal it. It was a lovely day. She was wired but sweet in a way. Her dog, Josie, was sitting in the passenger seat being very cute and fluffy. We talked for a good few hours in the sunny cul-de-sac and neither of us ended up committing grand theft auto. The music started with a grimey Casio loop Jay made, that we built the song around.”
Directed by Duncan Wright, the recently released video for “Human Touch” stars the band’s Nicholas Allbrook in a 70s styled suit, high heel boots and headphones dancing in the middle of empty, morning streets. An old Panasonic cathode ray TV is almost nearby, playing footage of Allbrook putting a tape into a tape player and pushing play, rocking out in a studio and stock footage of a disastrous fire. “My original idea was to be dancing in the central business district of Perth, being thoroughly ignored by suits on their lunch break,” Allbrook explains. “Turns out me and Duncan Wright are both quivering Fremantle natives and terrified of the City. When Duncan saw a pretty sliver of morning sunlight in the West End we figured, stuff it, let’s do it there. Zero people is kind of the same thing as being ignored by lots of people, right? I need some human connection blah blah blah. It was super fun to make. We didn’t really have a strict plan and I overcame by anxiety about dancing in platform shoes to no music at 9am on a Tuesday morning like a kook.”