It’s 1971. Let’s pretend that Bo Diddley has developed a foreign and untold mental affliction, forgotten to take his meds, and decided to collaborate with Black Sabbath on the theme song for the next James Bond film. This situation births only two possible outcomes – either complete and utter failure, or the opening track of Pond’s fifth album Hobo Rocket – quite aptly titled Whatever Happened to the Million Heads Collide?
The combination of heavy-duty riffage and almost humorous self-awareness on the opening track sets a pretty accurate precedent for the rest of the album. It’s ridiculous, it’s grandiose, and it doesn’t always make sense. But it still provides a ‘bloody ripper’ time.
The second track, Xanman, follows suit. A long-time live favorite of Pond’s cultish legion of fans, it blasts (and I mean blasts) listeners with perhaps one of the most triumphant and ridiculous riffs the universe has ever produced. Everything howls – from Nick Allbrook’s vocals to Jay Watson’s guitar. Even the bass line is intense. If you’ve ever wondered what ‘cock rock’ is, look no further than this song.
Track three, O Dharma, leaves you wondering whether you’ve just been brought back down to Earth or whether you should be trying to transcend it. It’s beauty is almost confusing – is it serious? Or is it a homage to the quasi-spiritual musical movements of the past? Whatever it is, it’s working. As Allbrook hands the vocals over to Watson half-way though, O Dharma leaves the realm of George Harrison and presumes the form of a strange and yet pleasant pop song – albeit with trippy sound effects, of course.
The following tracks, Aloneaflameaflower and lead single Giant Tortoise once again catapult listeners into a weird world of Sabbath-esque licks and unexpected time changes. Aloneaflameaflower even sees Allbrook briefly croak vocals as though he were cursing his parents and ‘the rules’ on stage at a teen punk concert. Like Xanman, Giant Tortoise is nothing short of unpretentious rock and roll pretense. I don’t know how many other bands can even achieve such a contradiction.
Fellow Perthian Cowboy John hijacks the vocals on the title track Hobo Rocket. He doesn’t really sing, but then he doesn’t really need to. The accompanying jam is so swinging that it allows anything to be layered over it – or at least anything that doesn’t include clean and thought-out vocals. Who needs lyrical sense when the subject of the song is a Hobo Rocket?
The final track, Midnight Mass (At the Market St. Payphone) is nothing new amongst the other tracks. I’m not sure whether Pond ran out of ideas by the end of the album or whether they just really really like Sabbath-fying what could be Bond riffs. Regardless, it ends the astral juggernaut that is Hobo Rocket in the same fashion in which it started – stupid, funny, ridiculous and just plain confusing. But in a good way.
By Niamh Crosbie