I should make a special section on this site for the albums that I own on CD, LP, and cassette. Usually when I get an album in vinyl, I'll sell the CD. But there are some - this being one of them - that I can't bring myself to part with. I want to be prepared to play them at all times, and there's usually some sentimentality involved, too. The first two Pond records would be in there, and so would some Faith No More records. The first Mr. Bungle, too. I'm sure there a few more that I'm forgetting at the moment. Anyway.
I don't clearly remember the first time I heard Pond. I always picture this record coming out in '91 or '92, because it feels like such a big part of my youth. Apparently I only had it during the last few years of high school. But I listened to it a ton. My friend had a copy of the CD that was always in his car, and we spent many an afternoon dicking around, driving while blaring this CD. It never got old. Ten songs that sounded almost like something you'd heard before, but mostly like nothing you'd ever come across.
Pond is remembered by people who don't really know what they're talking about as a "grunge" band, but I wouldn't call them that. Yeah, they rose to prominence in the NW in the early-to-mid 90's, and it's easy to slap that label on them to quickly reference their involvement in that scene, but "grunge" has dumbed-down connotations that I would never attach to Pond. Their music, even though it was never short on gristly, fuzzed-out tones, was deceptively intricate and fully reliant on melody over all else. Trying to compare the resulting sound to any other band is pointless, and in this case, that's a high compliment.
Pond was a three-piece band that sounded like a four-piece, thanks both to Charlie Campbell's dexterous fingers on the guitar, and Chris Brady's penchant for playing weird-ass semi-chords on his bass. (He would also use a bow sometimes.) And, of course, Dave Triebwasser pummeled the drums. That guy was the perfect drummer for this group. They all sound huge, but like I said, it's the precision that made it work. There were plenty of bands who tried to play loud, melodic rock, but Pond was just really fucking good at it.
The fact that Campbell and Brady's voices sound similar to the untrained ear made the whole thing even more interesting. Their harmonies were dead-on, and instead of their being a slight disconnect when one or the other took over the lead vocals (I always just assumed they sang the songs they wrote, and the vocal duties usually ended up being split down the middle - also cool) - like, say, on a Sebadoh record - you were never left with any sense that things had shifted. Tough to do, and a real testament to how well Campbell and Brady worked together.
So, yes, this is their debut, and though I bet the band considers this their finding-their-sound LP, it's full-blown awesomeness. (Quick aside - I went to see Pond in 1997, and someone yelled out "Agatha" - one of the singles from this record - and Brady made a comment about how they're "not that band anymore" and they did not play the song. Hence my assumption that they disowned this record at some point.) Trying to explain what Pond sounds like is difficult, so describing the exact merits of these songs is a little tough. They're heavy in a way, but also the sort of songs that I used to sing along to at the top of my lungs. I still can. They're catchy. And the lyrics are smart. And most of them have one-word titles like "Gone," "Wheel," "Grinned," and "Spots."
"Foamy" has always been one of my favorite tracks, especially after I found out it was about a likable prostitute. That remains one of the only songs on this record that I have any grasp of what it might be about. Although "Tree" may actually be about a tree.
If you don't own this record, you should. You can probably - sadly - find it for a dollar somewhere. I could go on forever about it. And wait until we get to their next record. I won't be able to shut up about it.