Review of Beard, Wives, Denim Album by Pond

With Australian outfit Pond sharing three members with fellow Aussies and psychedelic rockers Tame Impala, a comparison was inevitable. With a back catalogue of three albums since their formation in 2008, Pond still chose a homemade, undeniably garage approach for their fourth effort, 'Beard, Wives, Denim'.

Pond Beard, Wives, Denim Album

Opener 'Fantastic Explosion of Time' is filled with fuzzy guitar chords and squealing feedback, you immediately get the message that Pond aren't the type to take themselves too seriously. Although this is a refreshing concept the track doesn't offer much to cling onto, apart from the vague riff that repeats throughout, supported by lively keyboard chords ringing in the mix. Next is another explosion related track, which seems quite significant as the music, structurally and melodically is, like an explosion, completely uncontrollable, raw and unpredictable. 'When It Explodes' has a certain element of surf pop about it, the swaying, reverb laden vocals are similar to the intensely, chilled works of 'Best Coast' or 'Empire of the Sun'. The seemingly carefree attitude to production remains prominent, instruments drift in and out as the track slowly morphs into a psychedelic, electro jam partway through.

Although you try to avoid thinking of Tame Impala when listening to the record, at times it is literally impossible. 'Elegant Design' and 'Mystery' echo aspects of Tame Impala's 2010 debut 'Innerspeaker' with atmospheric guitar parts and delicate, laid back vocals adding something to the psychedelic rock revival. Supporting MGMT on their 2011 tour has clearly influenced the writing of 'Beard, Wives, Denim', fifth track 'Sun and Sea and You' immediately brings to mind much of MGMT's album 'Congratulations', in particular a short section incorporating group ooh's and aah's which seems to be a suspiciously similar chord progression to MGMT's 'Someone's Missing'. This is a recurring problem throughout the album, although all the right influences are there for a thoroughly satisfying listen, the vast range in the style and structure of the tracks suggests that Pond haven't quite found their individual sound yet, or maybe they don't want to.

As the album goes on, the mixed bag of material makes for an interesting, yet uncomfortable listen, 'You Broke My Cool' is a stylish, groove ridden ballad crossing the pop/rock boundary, which could have been plucked straight from California in the late 60's. This is followed by 'Moth Wings', unrecognisable vocals lie on top of a wah wah guitar line surrounded by crashing cymbals, not dissimilar from the 70's inspired rock 'n' roll of 'White Denim'.

Although 'Beard, Wives, Denim' offers something different in every track, which could be seen as a good thing, the album as a whole is quite overwhelming, offering little to cling onto. Moments of brilliance are counteracted by frustrating bulks of thoroughly average material, yet, despite the homemade production often taking away from some of the songs; it provides you with a warm, satisfying feeling that you're getting something genuine and raw, and it sounds like they had a hell of a lot of fun making it!

James Hopkin

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