A press release accompanying Bardo Pond's third album, Lapsed, exclaims, "It's their Statement, their Holy Grail, whatever, what have you," and really, that pretty much sums it up. The album's first song, "Tommy Gun Angel," opens with slow noisy guitars and Isobel Sollenberger's flat, ethereal, unintelligible vocals wafting in and out of all the distortion: The sounds she makes may form actual words that subsequently form actual statements — or maybe they don't. That, it seems, is Bardo Pond's Statement — they're into withholding.
You can read that in the album's enigmatic cover photo of a wagon heaped with what looks to be antlers and deerskins, and you can read it in the fact that they don't include lyrics, song credits, or even band member names on the cover's flipside. (Instead, there's a drawing that looks like a practice sketch for a Rorschach blot.) And, most of all, of course, you can read that in the album's six other songs, which are a lot like the first one: distorted guitars that drone and reverberate in moderately compelling fashion, Sollenberger's affectless vocals, and overwhelmed drums.
It's rock at its most abstract level — that is to say, none of the usual rock motives (or clichés, depending on your point of view) animate it. It's noisy, but without the nihilism of punk; it drones, but not so obsessively that it ever leads to any kind of transcendence. Perhaps this is what Lapsed refers to — the band seems to no longer believe (if they ever did) that rock can take you some place. Every time their songs build toward something cathartic or even just anthemic — and this happens fairly often on the album, especially on the 14-minute finale — Bardo Pond resist the impulse. It's as if they don't want to get caught aping anyone as hokey as Aerosmith or Eddie Vedder. Which is a noble impulse, to be sure, but also a limiting one.
[Written by G. Beato for Addicted to Noise. The review used to be available online, but Addicted to Noise seems to have disappeared. Reprinted without permission.]