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Pond – Stung! (Spinning Top Records)

It’s so straightforward. Being rejected. I got stung. But it ain’t infected.” On previous record 9, Pond borrowed and distorted lyrics from various sources including Ella Fitzgerald and Leonard Cohen and took the point of a view of various people in pop culture from Czech long-distance runner Emil Zápotek to French singer Maud Nadal but on the prolific Australian rock group’s 10th album Stung!  lead singer Nick Allbrook has become deep and introspective about themselves by opening up about their love wounds. Despite being stung many times by infatuation, he aims to encourage listeners on the 14-track record to move on from despair and maintain an affection for fellow humans.

I loved someone but they didn’t love me. It’s the same old story, you’ve heard it before” sings Nick Allbrook on opener ‘Constant Picnic’, one of many songs on Stung!  that uses impressive glittering synths and soothing phasing effects next to strokes of electric guitar. Although Allbrook is right that heartbreak songs are ubiquitous, the line: “It’s a constant picnic, an endless summer. The curtains falling but at least I’m dumber” is the 36-year-old pointing out that the drama of love is one out of a list of many cruel cycles that start off as start shiny and summery romance but the season of hope draws to a disappointing end. Before the next summer begins.

This is probably why on the funky play-on-words ‘So Lo’  – one of many songs on Stung!  that make one think of a classic rock song from yesteryear, in this case the music sounds like David Bowie’sFame’ – Allbrook advises himself: “I feel so low. I should’ve learned by now to keep my expectations low”. For a song that’s music is seemingly fun and upbeat, it misleadingly features dark lyrics within: “Haunted by a child brittle as paper. And now my future is just a vapor. Writ in such cruel detail. Guess I shouldn’t let my train derail”. Allbrook admitted in interviews that the album blossomed at a difficult time in his life. ‘Elephant Gun’  directly addresses this when he sings “And as for the head. Well, it’s still depressed.” Yet the musician is purposely and a bit nonsensically rhyming the morbid: “And I pray that my dying is freeing” with the comical on ‘So Lo’: “All this linen makes me feel so European,” to reflect the moment where you have overcome your depression by saying to yourself: “this is all just a bit stupid isn’t it?”

Quasi-title track ‘(I’m) Stung’  is an anthem for victims of unrequited love. Well, I’m stung. Yeah, the bell’s been rung. Oh, if love’s a game, then I guess you won. “ Nick Allbrook’s words have a slightly sarcastic vibe when describing love like a boxing match. You have lost but now let’s bring on the next boxing match. The healing ecclesiastical mellotron at the end is worth a listen even if the rest of the song is musically run-of-the-mill. Following on the love-beaten theme is ‘Sunrise For The Lonely’ .  A sweet drum machine ballad with a wonderfully woozy country twang bridge. A breathing space moment in the wild ride, it compares the ironic similarities when one shuts themselves away from the world both when enjoying physical intimacy with a lover and when one is a depressed singleton. In a cocoon. Till the afternoon. Shit, that’s what lovers do. Close the blinds and break the rules.”

Pond have released albums since 2008 and have gathered a long devoted fanbase. Something that connects the band with their followers is when they reward their devotees by referencing back to a previous album. ‘Last Elvis’ continues the Australian group’s fascination with the rock and roll icon. Back on ‘Elvis Flaming Star’ from 2015’s Man It Feels Like Space Again – the song had the swagger movement of Elvis’s hips and moments of prom-blues balladry, name-checked one of the actor’s films and seem to be praising him: “And I hope they bring back Elvis. And all the stars of the past”.  However on ‘Last Elvis’ from Stung!, it sounds nothing like an Elvis song and seems to poke fun at the singer’s desperate attempts to be popular: “The last Elvis in Madison Square. Billboards sparkle off his liquorice hair. Last year’s papers blow ’round his flairs. At his cassettes crescendo he kicks at the air. No one’s clapping. So he whips ’round his crotch.”

Furthermore, ‘Edge Of The World Part 3’ ends the trilogy that had its first two parts on the climate change album The Weather. On the predecessors, it dramatically discussed Australia’s impending social and atmospheric doom, but on Part 3, it seems like the dystopian future has already begun: “Who do we have to eat? Who do we have to kill? To get our foot in the doorway of the house at the top of the hill? The most clever line is: “Finished the Ferrero Rochers. And their bronze wings,” as it alludes back to ‘Toast’ from the previous album 9, as once again it imagines rich people witnessing the carnage beneath them. The circa eight minute progressive rock track is stunning and easy to get lost in. Church bells, aquatic electronics, swirling flute, jazz-funk era of Kool and The Gang and all tied together by a guitar solo by Reine Fiske from the Swedish rockers Dungen. The old-broadband-like noises in the middle make it sound as if the listener is seeing their life’s moments flash past their eyes, whether the moments are mundane or not. Yet due to Nick Albrook’s idiosyncratic voice, all this experimentation still sounds like Pond. Who knows what Part 4 will be like?

Admittedly these two songs seem a bit confusingly out-of-place on an album that is primarily about how tackle the consequence of love. Nonetheless, much like the rest of the album the songs are musically brilliant and one thing Pond undeniably keep consistent is maintaining the knowledge on how to connect their swarm of fans to their sweet nectar.


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