Pond: Koko, London – live review
10th June 2014
Aussie psych-rockers Pond bring their recent UK tour to a triumphant close.
Mistakenly referred to for some time as merely Kevin Parker’s ‘other band’ (though there was a period when this was technically true) it now seems an almost banal statement that Pond are major players in the burgeoning Perth psych-rock scene.
Tonight, 9000 miles from their Australian home, a rammed Koko is cheering before the band even appear, the sight of roadies or venue staff lucky enough to share the same backstage area as them apparently a thrill in itself. When Pond do eventually arrive on stage, the crowd’s response is nothing short of eruptive.
Six albums in, comparisons to Tame Impala might seem a bit patronising, if not entirely redundant. Indeed, if the expansive psychedelic melodies of TI were to merge with the sort of slacker aesthetic Parquet Courts (deny to) wear so well, the results wouldn’t be far off the five long-haired loons we see here tonight, playing a set of barely ten songs that nonetheless lasts over an hour.
Opener Whatever Happened to the Million Head Collide serves to indicate the eclecticism of Pond’s particular brand of psychedelia from the get-go. Light, Broadcast-esque keyboard melodies one minute, chunky Black Sabbath guitar riffs the next. In truth, it seems futile trying to explain how exactly they make these sounds work alongside one another. Bands who claim to be influenced by ‘everything’ almost invariably produce garbage, yet Pond can borrow from genres spanning heavy metal to disco, often in the space of one song, not just getting away with it but pulling it off with considerable style and ease.
There’s an ironically cocky swagger to Pond’s stage antics that would be embarrassing in the hands of most bands, but in theirs it luckily translates into nothing other than good brainless fun. Lead vocalist and guitar player Nick Allbrook unquestionably shows off the ballsiest moves of the night, at one point standing atop a speaker so far from the ground he manages to shake hands with someone on the venue’s upper tier. It’s frankly hard to believe this is the same man who was for so long the quiet, withdrawn-looking bassist of Tame Impala.
Their energy is more than matched by the crowd, which maintains an impressive pogo-pit throughout and laps up everything on offer, from a wildly extended rendition of debut album track Don’t Look at the Sun or You’ll Go Blind through to the punchy, sing-along provoking You Broke My Cool.
For an encore (at least that’s what drummer Jay Watson tells us it is – “we’re not very good at all that going off, doing thirty lines of coke and coming back on bullshit…”) we’re treated to yet another improv-heavy performance, this time of Hobo Rocket closer Midnight Mass. While their once loose and carefree approach to songwriting may have been slowly eroded in their recorded output, it’s great to see Pond’s appetite for jamming still very much alive when playing in the flesh.
Polished, immaculately produced psychedelia is all well and good (in fact, some of it is superb), but since Syd Barrett took that one tab of acid too many it’s hard to see where the genre ever really regained its edgy side. If there’s one definite lasting impression of tonight’s show, it’s that Pond represent the only realistic hope of restoring it.
All words and photo by Will Dix. More writing by Will can be found at his author’s archive.