Damon Albarn takes us on a walk through his personal history on this song, taking in key moments that have shaped him such as the drought of 1976, the road he he once lived in being severed by the M11 link road in 1991, and seeing the graffiti "modern life is rubbish" sprayed on a wall in 1993.
"1976 is a long time ago really," Albarn told Danielle Perry on the XFM Evening Show. "There's that realisation that a lot of things have been quite interesting in the way I turned out. They seemed to be worthy of some kind of meditation."
"That's what I'm trying to do in Hollow Ponds," he added. "go back and then realise that it's now. In a way, how do we know that we exist other than that beam of light that's our history?"
Albarn concludes the song by outlining his fear of the dehumanizing effects of technology in the future when he sings about the 21st century "dreams we share on LCDs." He explained to NME: "It's like, are we in a period of such insane transition that we can't see anything really? Are we blind? Or is it a period of enlightenment? Will we end up being a kind of universal brain... We are all thinking together, all acting as one thing? Or is it gonna isolate the individual to a point where the organic senses of sight, taste, hearing and love, all of that stuff, is that all just gonna be digitalized?"
Albarn spent his childhood at 21 Fillebrook Road in Leytonstone, East London. Hollow Ponds is an undulating woodland area centered around a man-made lake. on the northern border of Leytonstone. "I remembered the heatwave of 1976," Albarn recalled to Q magazine,"when it seemed like everyone in London was swimming in the Hollow Ponds. It felt like the city was meeting itself and saying, 'Wow, we live in a new, multicultural country.'"
The song contains a sample of the Central Line underground train leaving Leytonstone Station.
Many of the songs on Everyday Robots trace Albarn's life back to his childhood in East London. "I started at the beginning by going back to the neighborhood where I grew up and walking around and filming stuff with my iPad," he told Rolling Stone. "It was like my own archaeological dig, cordoning off areas that I wanted to concentrate on."
The nostalgic journey also forced Albarn to contemplate how technology has changed interpersonal relationships, another theme he explores on Everyday Robots. "By going to where I came from, I got a good perspective on a time where there were no telephones apart from the one in your house," he said. "There were no computers. If you watched a TV show, you had to watch it during the particular moment that it aired. I wanted to ask, 'Are we further from ourselves or closer to ourselves because of technology?'"
Albarn recalls in this song how he stumbled across the title for Blur's Modern Life Is Rubbish album. "That was a really big moment for me," he told Rolling Stone. "It was mad. I wish I'd taken a photo. You know, there's me going on about taking too many photographs and not living in the moment, but I wish I had taken a photo."
"At the end of Edgware Road going up to Hyde Park Corner, there's a long white wall, and there was a bit of graffiti that big [tracing a postcard-sized space on the wall], and it said 'Modern Life is Rubbish,'" he continued. That little bit of graffiti changed my life. It was just such a massive thing, so ridiculous. I had to sing about it."