The Tame Impala-affiliated rock band bring psychedelia into the 21st century with lush textures, acid funk grooves, and huge infectious riffs.
Over the last five years, Australian rock band Tame Impala and its members have helped resurrect a long dormant style of lush psychedelic rock. The modern San Francisco garage rock scene had its fair share of psych-rock excursions before that point, particularly from prestigious stalwarts Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, but it was always more raw and elemental -- a far cry from Tame Impala’s gilded, sweeping psychedelia. The band’s two albums, Innerspeaker (2010) and Lonerism (2012), received critical acclaim for their stirring evolution of late-Beatles and early glam rock sounds, but Tame Impala’s side efforts truly reveal the musicians as retro rock saviors, capable of bringing phased guitars and druggy vocals up to speed in the 21st century.
Notable among these projects is Pond, featuring singer and ex-Tame Impala touring member Nick Allbrook, Tame Impala drummer Jay Watson, and, on the band’s latest record Man It Feels Like Space Again, Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker as producer. Parker had produced several Pond albums previously, but none sound quite so Tame Impala-esque as Man It Feels Like Space Again, an epic blend of Bowie stylings, space rock grandiosity and acid funk grit with a number of five-to-eight-minute long songs and plenty of heady special effects. Opener “Waiting Around for Grace” begins with a dramatic string intro before barreling into an upbeat frenzy of kaleidoscopic effects, held together by a fuzzy, infectious guitar groove. The song perfectly encapsulates the album’s ethos: funky rhythms and trippy effects juxtaposed with operatic hooks and solos. The sound is huge and expansive, rivaling the druggy, swampy sound of Innerspeaker and the riff-heavy Lonerism — not to mention surpassing Pond’s own discography — all at once.
Songs like “Elvis’ Flaming Star” combine early-Bowie theatricality with dance beats and unusual melodies for an entirely fresh rock sound, while “Outside is the Right Side” puts Funkadelic-level funk into the proceedings via a crushing synth bass and powerful drum groove. It’s truly a shame more modern rock band’s can’t be as original or exciting as Pond on Man It Feels Like Space Again, constantly flipping their influences inside-out, lacing them together and caking them in a fog of mind-numbing flangers and choruses. There is everything from folky acoustic ballads (“Medicine Hat”) to prog-rock epics (“Man It Feels Like Space Again”), and every song somehow coheres into a dynamic, roller coaster ride of a record. It’s not exaggeration to say that Man It Feels Like Space Again is one of the few modern rock albums to try everything and succeed at it all.
Parker has had success in bringing the Tame Impala sound to other projects before, notably on the immaculate 2012 self-titled debut of Melody’s Echo Chamber, a record on which he also played bass, drums, and guitar. Melody’s Echo Chamber, like Man It Feels Like Space Again, is both wholly separate from and inextricably tied to the Tame Impala legacy by being a part of that universe of sound, linked together by the same sonic ethos. Parker, Allbrook and company have cornered the psych-rock market in a way that everything else in the genre outside of their influence inevitably feels somehow empty and hollow. This isn’t an affront to other contemporary garage rock artists, but an endorsement of Tame Impala and their rotating cast of friends and family who’ve brought warmth and artfulness back to psychedelia. Pond’s new album is a shining example of a reappropriation of retro styles used to create a modern identity that feels like nothing else. Many artists could learn a lot listening to Man It Feels Like Space Again, but for everyone else, it’s just groovy.