On Tasmania, Pond announce themselves as one of Australia’s best protest bands. With a provocative album that touches on current complex issues including toxic masculinity (The Boys Are Killing Me), environmental disaster (the breathtaking Tasmania), drugs (Selene) and troubles around national identity (Shame), Pond don’t paint themselves into a corner, tackling a broad range of topics with emotional precision.
“So you got political, can you speak on that?/ I didn’t get political, I just faced the facts,” sings frontman Nicholas Allbrook on Hand Mouth Dancer, going on to assert, “Just don’t slap me on the back/ I’m not the one for whom leaving the house is a political act”.
Finding an entry point for Pond can be tricky. Now with eight albums in 10 years, their 10 most popular tracks on Spotify don’t even scratch the surface of the ambitions this band have both conquered and squandered. Perhaps they’re bad at choosing singles, but if you’re after a suggestion then start at 2017’s The Weather or 2012’s Beard, Wives, Denim.
Tasmania follows on closely from The Weather and has been described as a companion piece of sorts. Lyrically it forms something of a trilogy with The Weather and Allbrook’s 2016 solo record Pure Gardiya, both of which explored issues around national identity particular to Australia.
That’s where the lyrical themes of Tasmania really resonate – they’ve been building up to something this consistent for a while (check out the closing stanza to Edge of the World Pt. 2 from The Weather, which climatically touches on everything from Gina Rinehart to Lateline to the Roe 8 Highway extension). Pond bring a voice to the issues we as West Australians understand. Here that includes pearls such as “I’m sorry for the glory of the queen, the glory of the gun” on Shame, and “Who took a lil too much speed and fucked his guts up and his teeth” on Selene.
Perhaps it’s having Allbrook take more of a centre stage role on vocals that brings this collection of 10 tracks such cohesion. It allows for eight-minute epic Burnt Out Star to subtly hark back lyrically and melodically to the album’s standout, title track Tasmania at the three-minute mark – it’s the stuff of concept album/ prog-pop legend, for those who like Easter egg hunts.
Or perhaps having Kevin Parker back at the helm producing, as he did on The Weather, is key. While Parker has always been involved in Pond and is often described by the band as an additional member, the way Tasmania hangs together thematically can’t be separated from its noticeably more electronic textures. They were there on The Weather, but here it’s in full effect.
That means there’s no sensory explosions like Edge of the World Pt. 2 or 30000 Megatons, but highlights like Tasmania and Shiny Joe Ryan’s Doctor’s In (complete with joyful Flaming Lips vibes), are reflective of a more refined Pond. Even Burnt Out Star never overplays its slightly krautrock vibe at the end.
There hasn’t been a Pond member release a solo album in a while. For a band whose members are so prolific, suddenly everything feels more honed, streamlined and played to their strengths. This is a Perth band growing up in front of our very eyes, and it’s more fascinating to watch than ever.