Music Review: Tame Impala - Currents
For Impala fans it has been a three year wait since their previous album, “Lonerism”. For those of you not familiar with their work, Tame Impala are a psychedelic pop band of the electronic persuasion. Home- grown in Perth, their writer, producer, and vocalist Kevin Parker, began mixing sounds at home in 2007 at the age of twelve and to a large degree still does produce from home withdrawn from society in general. This withdrawal is apparent in the melancholy tone of his music.
“Currents” is their third full length studio album and was released last month. Deviating a little from their usual style it is more languid and less poppy than their other two albums. It’s a lot more defined. Listening to this one is somewhat like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole.
The overall story behind these tracks is one of change and leads you on a journey of gut wrenchingly honest admissions and retro synth emotions. Opening with “Let It Happen”, one of the more upbeat tracks, it still has the obligatory pop elements, distorted synths and hand clapping, but, the obviously absent guitars are only kicking in at the end of the track. This happens at the end of “The Moment” as well. In “Let It Happen” It’s like he is falling down a rabbit hole too, sounding quite fatalistic. You get excited with the upbeat opening tone of “The Moment”, him wanting to be in the moment, only to get slammed with “the storm clouds closing in”! Kevin’s bass grooves in this track are the most apparent (he is an underrated rock bassist) with echoing vocals eclipsing in the background. As I said before, the guitars only kick in at the end, but, this track devolves into an almost eastern fusion of synths that reminds me of Ultravox. “The Less I know The Better”, abandons self-respect and dignity altogether as he plots petty revenge. A self-confessed Michael Jackson fan, Parker infuses his music with healthy doses of retro and funk.
There are a couple of demi instrumentals on this album, “Nangs” and “Gossip”, “Nang” only having some obscure whispered vocals. Both tracks are ethereal and electronic.
One of the singles released from this offering, “Cause I’m A Man”, is quite the confronting track; delving into the male ego. The phrase “not think before I do” comes up frequently, the excuse being “Cuz I’m a man”. It seems Interpol doesn’t hold the patent on brutally honest lyrics, where putting it all out there is not only cathartic, but, like bungy jumping, an adrenaline rush! It has a very 80’s feel about it with a few Nine Inch Nails-style guitar riffs thrown in. In a similar vein we have “Yes, I Am Changing”. Also very honest, it leaves you wandering what Parker is planning for the future. This album is an example of how being messed up can be channelled into creative energy.
You get some interesting sounds popping up in this album. “Reality In Motion” gives us sliding bass grooves and cacophonous electronics whereas “Past Life” is narrated partially by a Daft Punk robot. “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”, another honest one, has funky bass grooves with a bell-like bridge in the track and I swear I heard a banjo twanging in there somewhere. Sitar maybe?
While listening to it for the first time on Spotify this sounded like your typical JJJ stuff. If however, you’re seriously into electronic music it’s worth a look in. The glaringly open nature of Parkers lyrics has you feeling the discomfort in his seat and living his pain. Some tracks are upbeat (even if the words are taking you down,) some soporific; it’s an acid trip of an experience nonetheless. While not epic genius, Parkers work is solid, and while sometimes a little monotonous it possesses a languor that is engaging. You have to respect an artist who is driven enough to start writing and producing at such a young age, and speaking from experience, enduring the frustrations of recording and producing at home. “Innerspeaker” was ranked Gold and “Lonerism” went Platinum. Let’s see where this one goes.
I am fascinated with the inferences of their band moniker, Tame Impala, which reputedly explores the tension between wild and civilized tendencies.
If you were not able to catch Tame Impala at Splendour in the Grass last month in Byron Bay and happen to be in the States, they will be touring with Mark Ronson between August and October. They’ve just done Lollapalooza at the beginning of this month and are appearing at Austin City Limits in October also.
Releases to date:
- Self titled EP (2008)
- Innerspeaker (2010)
- Lonerism (2012)
- Currents (2015)