Pond made two great albums for Sub Pop that somehow failed to make a big splash. Happily, that didn't stop the band from getting picked up by Sony. While lacking the intensity of the band's live shows (and its eponymous debut album), Rock Collection is a fine piece of work from one of America's most underrated bands. All of Pond's trademarks are here: catchy melodies, crashing guitars and the peerless rhythm section of Chris Brady and Dave Triebwasser. The companion pieces "You're Not An Astronaut" and "My Dog Is An Astronaut, Though" are vintage Pond: songs that start softly before erupting into incandescent blasts of noise. Also of note are the Nirvana-esque "One Day In The Future" (although Nirvana never had harmonies like this) and the swirling "Golden." Two brief instrumentals, "Rabbit" and the spooky "Guitar Opus," are cool but seem like padding (especially since the latter is just an extended intro to the nifty finale, "Ugly"). But as long as Pond is allowed to put out 16-song albums with this much good stuff, I'm won't complain.
Never too late, the heroes
By William Abernathy
"What you start wanting to do is draw your knees up," says Pond guitarist Charlie Campbell of his bunk/home for the previous five weeks, "That's what I want to do, after a while. I sit in bed and read, and I go thump! Then I start panicking." The tour bus isn't exactly KISS-Army spec: an airport shuttle converted to hold six bunks plus a small seating area. Drummer Dave Triebwasser extends a thumb and a pinky from his fist. "If you go like that," he says, touching his thumb to his nose, "you can touch the ceiling!" The bunk area looks like a Borg bachelor pad, with six barely man-size cells, five filled with bedding and one with a tangle of amps, wires, and tour flotsam. But it is their bus. And with their nationwide tour complete, the vehicle remains Charlie's home until he finds a pad.
Pond don't seem to mind too terribly, beyond a ferocious urge to shower. The five-week tour has taken them across America, through snowstorms and past multiple accidents. If their apparent mellowness is simply exhaustion, they wear it well. They've always, however, seemed to be just a little too happy for their circumstances, a disposition that might be the reason for their longevity in the volatile Northwest music scene.
With grunge's Hale-Bopp-like rise and fall, Northwest acts who hitched a ride on Seattle's tail have been "shedding their containers" with drumbeat regularity. The successes (and excesses) of the early '90s have faded, and even Sub Pop has collapsed into infighting and Marv Albert-esque backbiting. From Portland, second city of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle's fireworks were pretty impressive in their day and had a major impact on the local scene: as soon as Sub Pop got cash in their wallets, they immediately sent raiding parties down I-5 to plunder the cream of Portland's then-burgeoning independent scene.
Of the heyday of '93 and '94, few bands remain. But Pond, thrown clear of the wreckage of El Grunge-o Grande, lives on. And with the single "Spokes" from their third album, "Rock Collection" (their first effort for the Santa Monica-based Sony/Work label), Pond have garnered something that only hometown antiheroes Everclear had previously attained: airplay in the notoriously timid Portland radio market. Their three-record-guarantee deal emphasizes artistic freedom and a secure position with the label over long buses and epic buffet trays. "At the time we were being signed [to Sony]," Campbell recounts, "labels were already realizing they'd signed too many people and they were dropping 'em in handfuls. . .they were wholesale, just dropping bands. So, we said, 'We don't want that to happen.' So, we didn't go for a ton of money, but we went for a solid deal.
And if indier-than-thou tyrants think Pond have made the big sellout, it sure doesn't show on the finished product. Longtime Pond fans will easily recognize the band's voice: swirling cascades of droning Eastern-influenced guitars and clean, near-bursting vocals from guitarist Charlie Campbell and bassist Chris Brady, bolstered with splashy drumming from Dave Triebwasser. New for live shows is guitarist Bryan Ronshaugen, former front of Forehead, a defunct and criminally underappreciated Portland dronecore act. His ability to work a slide in the pick hand attracted Campbell's attention, and before he could put him to work on a side project, the band opted to shuffle him into Pond's live lineup. This slide technique evident on the new album in "Twins," "Seed" and the bittersweet "My Dog Is An Astronaut, Though," (a paean to Laika the Russian space dog) gives the bass and guitars an eerie, untempered tenor, a voice which sounds sort of like an e-bow or a Theremin.
And Pond are no strangers to performing unnatural acts on their guitars. From their endearingly exuberant first album Pond, the band distinguished themselves by guitar work that even went off the fretboard, including stringwork off the top nut of the instrument. From the outset, they combined their instrumental innovations with unusually sunny song structures and lyrics that are child-like in their earnestness, all the more remarkable coming from a region renowned for power-chord-sodden four-on-the-floor Wertherism. While maintaining their sound and identity through their second Sub Pop full-length, The Practice of Joy Before Death, their lyrics and structure took on a more pained, poignant quality on which Rock Collection builds, adding ever-more sophisticated songwriting and instrumental technique to their already rich ouevre.
Though by alt-rock standards they are a success story, set up with pro support and enough cash flow that they've not had to hold down day jobs for the past few years, Pond's biggest success story is the salvation of Triebwasser. To hear the recovering heroin addict and diligent 12-stepper tell the story, the 1994 Northridge quake saved his life. Because the phone lines were down, Campbell and Brady couldn't reach their attorney to throw him out of the band. During that delay, he went into treatment. When I ask Triebwasser where he'd be today if he weren't in Pond, he replies straightforwardly, "Dead."
In earlier times, Triebwasser lived not dissimilarly to the Bad Lieutenant, lying, cheating, and stealing to keep his addiction fed, and this reporter saw him on more than one occasion nodding off backstage. "We'd have these bad shows because of Dave," Campbell says. "And now, I can remember only one time on tour where Dave dropped his stick. We all goof up, but he always -- it's always exactly right -- I'm proud of Dave."
"I also play better fooseball now," Dave notes. "These guys get all trashed and we play fooseball at two in the morning."
"He's the one-eyed-man in the land of the blind," Charlie jokes.
- Al Muzer
Pond's 16-song major label debut may sound positively loopy - but the lyrics, on closer examination, are a lot darker and much deeper than first impressions would indicate.
Blasting out of your speakers like a warped hybrid of Weezer, Flaming Lips, Primus and Nada Surf after a weekend spent listening to (and then smashing) their big brother's old prog-rock records and taking power hits outta the bong they found stashed under his bed, the Portland, Oregon three-piece have conjured up an amazing collection of musical oddities that just happens to boast several potential hit singles among its heart-on-sleeve confessions.
With songs devoted to disaffected offspring, human shells, stars gone horribly off course, bad memories, escape, failure, waste, loneliness, self-doubt and Russian dogs sent into outer space to die; Rock Collection (Work Group/Sony) sounds a lot lighter, quirkier - and a hell of a lot more fun than it should, by all rights, sound.
Maybe it all boils down to a childhood spent in musical isolation. Growing up in Juneau, Alaska, bassist/vocalist Chris Brady and guitarist/vocalist Charlie Campbell had to search far and wide to hear anything worth listening to. Spending his formative years in Boring, Oregon, drummer Dave Triebwasser didn't have things much better from an audio-input point of view.
"We had to really search for good music," laments Campbell of his and Brady's high school years. "All you'd ever hear was this Top 40 sort'a stuff. There was this one place where you could buy 'weird' records - I remember picking up a live Replacements cassette there called When The Shit Hits The Fan and just being totally amazed. You know, 'what the hell is this?' and, like, a light clicked on over my head."
"There was also this little public radio station up there that received the same releases most college radio stations got," recalls the author of "You're Not An Astronaut" and "My Dog Is An Astronaut, Though." "I volunteered to work there after high school - which was a real eye-opening experience for me. Man, those were great times," he adds of his musical coming of age.
"I sort of knew Chris from high school," Campbell says as he explains the beginnings of Pond, "but we didn't really hang out or anything until the band actually came together. I was working with someone else and we both wanted to leave town and play music somewhere more, uhm, receptive. I knew that Chris played bass, so I asked him to come play for us." "We did a couple of shows in Juneau," he adds, "and then said 'Let's go try this down South' (the duo relocated to the lower 48 states in 1989) and Pond was born."
Formed in the summer of 1991 when Brady and Campbell met Triebwasser (formerly of Thrillhammer) and the three young musicians bonded; Pond released one 45 on T/K in 1992 before someone at Sub Pop Records caught the group opening for Sprinkler and signed them.
A few tracks on various Sub Pop CDs, vinyl and holiday collections helped attract modest attention to the band, as did 1993s self-titled, Jonathan (Posies) Auer-produced full-length CD, 1995s The Practice Of Joy Before Death and opening slots for Six Finger Satellite, Throwing Muses, Rocket From The Crypt and Soundgarden.
Smart enough to recognize a great band when they finally came across one, Work Group/Sony negotiated a deal with Sub Pop for Pond in 1995 and then waited patiently for the three friends to polish up their Rock Collection.
"The whole major label thing is" begins Campbell as he attempts to describe his new life. "When you're not out on tour or recording, you seem to spend an awful lot of time at home doing absolutely nothing. You go from sitting around doing whatever you want, whenever you want - to being out on the road with practically every second of your day spoken for. It's definitely a very weird way to live. "
"I imagine some of it'll have some influence on my next batch of songs," offers the man whose lyrics display almost an obsessive fondness for water and drowning. "And animals and astronauts!" Campbell adds with a chuckle. "You know, I'm not sure what, exactly, the connection is between all those elements. I don't really know why those particular themes kept cropping up in these songs - especially the astronauts!"
Special Thanks to Christophe Demunter for sending me this article.
Please visit his Pond page (look in my links page for the address).
PILLOWFIGHT RECORDVIEWS *POND*
Rock Collection LP
Pond continues their musical metamorphosis putting out their third recorded incarnation and again blowing tamer expectations all to hell. Anyone who thought these guys were laying low since their falling-out with Sub-Pop better think again. This record showcases Pond's unbelievable diversity and has them touting their brand of disjointed rock louder than ever before.
Perhaps less drastic a change from previous efforts than 1994's The Practice of Joy Before Death, Rock Collection still shows a furthering of the direction Pond has established for themselves. Both Chris and Charlie continue to write angular songs with disturbingly sly and morose lyrics. Sentimental and often regretful themes run through much of the disc, giving it a less-than-bright-and-sunny aura. But, as usual, Pond's execution and delivery shine, keeping the effort from veering into darker realms.
Another fine piece of work from one of the most underrated bands this side of the mighty Miss.
- Mark Wieman
PILLOWFIGHT RECORDVIEWS *POND*
The Practice of Joy Before Death LP
It's been over two years since Portland's Pond unleashed their amazing debut. On their new slab, Pond seems to have indulged in long hours of Grifters, Polvo, and maybe even Codeine at times. Instead of enlisting big names like Butch Vig or Brad Wood to twist knobs for them and make this a Smashing Pumpkins-sounding record, Pond opted for a low-fidelity hiss and scrape that suits these sounds quite nicely. Compared to their first record, this one shows a level of maturity most bands take five or six years to acquire, if even then. Nineteen Ninety Five is already a promising year.
-Roy C. Usery
One of the city's most criminally under-exposed bands, Pond, is in the studio finishing work on their third record. The first two were on Sub Pop; this one will be on Work (which is part of Sony, natch). No title yet, but a sneak preview signaled a return to the dense guitar/bass weaving and pummeling drums that made past efforts so powerful. Guitarist Charlie Campbell even over dubbed 20 guitar tracks to make a mini-symphony. Look for it in early autumn.
As I mentioned last week, Pond recently finished recording their third record, the first for Sony's WORK. Adam Kasper produced, having just finished working on R.E.M.'s soon-to-be released album. Kasper also recorded Soundgarden's latest. Pond played a midnight show in Portland's downtown open-air amphitheater in Pioneer Square Saturday, June 15. Soon Charlie Campbell, Chris Brady and the aforementioned Triebwasser will head up to Olympia for an appearance at the second Sunnyside Music Festival.
Live performance shot at Sub Pop's Lamefest '93 in San Francisco, other stuff [photos] shot in Portland after an unexpected snowstorm. Much wet misery. The band got gold stars for being good sports. The San Francisco show was on of guitarist Charlie Campbell's last performance wearing a crown.
The Practice of Joy Before Death
The once reviled Beatles were not so long ago one manifestation of the '60s beast indie pop felt compelled to slay, but 'Beatlesesque' has of late become an honorific applied to a slew of recent lo-fi champs, from Heavy Vegetable to Guided By Voices (and, come to think of it, The Beatles' White Album is pretty lo-fi in its own way). Alaskan SubPoppers Pond hit two years ago with a solid, if unremarkable, set of catchy, hard-nosed pop that clobbered you across the temple with sharp hooks from the first listen, but The Practice of Joy Before Death has a whole lotta late Beatles goin' on: unpredictable harmonies and vocal lines, melodically dissonant chords, sufficient whimsy to inject playfulness without becoming cute or annoying, and enough minor scales to depress Chopin. The Practice of Joy..., as you might then expect, is not as impatient with your attention as the debut: it's willing to modulate its charms, let you warm up to it, and blow you away by increments. CW1
-Streetsound Rock Reviews: Chris Waters & Chris Wodskou
The Practice of Joy Before Death
THE SEATTLE grunge scene of 1992 may have flowed on into new rivers, but it's left little distributaries and oxbow lakes behind... and Pond. Originally, Pond came from a tiny fishing village called Juneau in Alaska. They joined the Seattle scene as its mellowest and became its only short haired members. Having toured Europe with the Throwing Muses, they went home to release their first album; then they bravely embarked on another European tour - all by themselves. Busily practising joy before death, (one surmises they are going to dry up in the sun of Frith, or get overgrown with weeds as predicted in Sundial), this second album proves there's aquatic life in them yet. They are simultaneously grungey and mellow, rough and endearing, (and the one who sings - it could be Charlie or Chris or Dave - has a lovely Muppety accent). Roadside is a grungily happy song about a roadside, with sandwiched distorted and melodic guitars that could have come out of Sonic Youth's kitchen. Ballads like the quiet, introspective Union and Artificial Turf contrast with the more lively ( and Sugar-esque) Magnifier. Frith is a storming, sun-soaked song, (most appreciated when the heating breaks down). The album is finally wrapped up with the quirky Gagged and Bound. Pond may not be big fish, but they certainly make a splash.
Portland's Pond ends the show. Having been called 'the toast of Portland,' the band found itself at the center of a publicity hurricane upon the release of their Sub-Pop self-titled debut. Jon Auer from the Posies produced their debut, and, as they say in the Olympics, upon the release of the record it was 'let the games begin.' Rolling Stone called the album, " ... the finest collection of loud pop music Sub Pop has released since another Northwest trio produced Bleach ... "; Request exclaimed, " ... just three regular guys who happen to have a flair for incendiary riffs and engaging hard-edged melodies ... " and publications and scribes from Melody Maker to the Chicago Tribune to Paperback Jukebox toSpin chimed in. Stay to see what got everyone pointing to Portland in the first place. Showtime is 1:00am.
The show began with Portland's Pond, who played an original brand of alternative rock. The singing bass player pounded out the songs with determination, but you could tell the he felt miffed that most people there were not really paying attention. Their show lacked a certain something: trying hard, yet not getting the response they wanted. Most people hadn't heard of Pond anyways, and with the sound, it was hard to tell what was going on."
The first band to perform was Pond, a trio of "Grunge" rockers from Oregon. As much as I tried (and believe me I tried) I just could not get into these guys. There wasn't much of a distinction from one song to another. The only way to describe this band is heavy yet drudgy. Just another young trio of artists with alot of heart and not much orgininality. Sorry guys, nice try.
Apparently not, 'cuz passion opened this evening's festivities with glowing performances from both Pond and Rocket from the Crypt. Stepping onstage at around 7:30, Pond (from Portland, I believe) warmed up the sparse and stingy crowd with neat, floaty and occasionally heavy working class pop tunes that the trio seemed genuinely happy to play. The singer/bassist was especially on top of things with his pronounced on-the-neck strumming and grounded demeanour, while the guitarist had higher, technical aspirations. Pond play catchy, yet atypical music; they also have a new CD coming out in the new year on Sub Pop, so check it out at a listening booth near you.
Everyone HATED pond except me. I had words with the singer of Pond during SG and got his e-mail address. I apoligized for houston being close minded, burnout, rednecks who aren't open to something new. Anyone in cali, vancouver, oregon and seattle are in for a real treat with pond and rocket from the crypt.
Cool concert. I thought Pond was pretty good, definitely something different but they didn't go over very well with the crowd (i.e., it was hard to mosh to).
Pond was a nondescript trio that made some noise that we've all heard at mall surf shops and jeans stores.
Pond was okay at first until their songs all started sounding the same.
Oh yeah... the guys from Pond are really nifty, too. =) Be nice to them.
I liked Pond who was the first opening act. I had never heard them before the SG shows...so I don't know much about them or their songs but I was impressed. From what I could tell (and I could be wrong) they don't have a bass player, but with their style they didn't really need it. I really liked the rhythm guitar riffs--I think they have a cool, original sound. I give them *** out of ***** stars.
Pond opened to little enthusiasm...
I'm totally glad I went. POND rocked, they'll be on tour for the next six months.
Pond was blantently boring...
Pond was pretty good...
Pond was pretty good; I'm still not sure if they were supposed to sound discordant, or if they were just sloppy.
Although I thought Pond was ok(I think the rest of the fans agreed, since shouts of Soundgarden where being yelled throughout Pond's set), Rocket from the Crypt came on and did a damn good job.
Neither I nor the rest of the crowd liked Pond that much, but Crypt at least got everyone excited.
Indeed my fellow UT student Pond and Rocket were to say the least, HORRIBLE!
By the time we got into the arena, Pond had already finished about half their set. I know a lot of people didn't like them, but I thought they were pretty good. They reminded me a little bit of Green Day. I hate Green Day, though, so I don't know why I liked Pond.
After sitting through 2 hours of semi-decent music from Pond, and utterly intolerable screechings c/o Rocket From the Crypt (7 guys wearing purple sequin shirts)...
Pond was a great band, if they stick together and mature, im sure they'll do great.
I agree with the rest: Pond was good, Rocket sucked.