Aside from AC-DC and Jet, how many well known bands from Australia can you name? Name me one more that’s called Silverchair and you really have hit the wall. I’m sure there are plenty of awesome acts, but for some reason Americans tend to mostly like things from this country. Same reason Blur is giant in the U.K. but not really a big deal here. Anyway, around the year 2010, a musician from Perth started to get a little bit noticed in various other parts of our massive world. His name is Kevin Parker, and while he has a full backing band that tours with him, he has always remained the most vital and key component of what is Tame Impala. Look at him as sort of a Trent Reznor esque entity. Writing and recording everything himself, he only requires other people once it’s time to hit the stage.
Something about the music is transcendental and moving, like a drug fueled haze on a gorgeous sunny day in the field. When I listen to this band, I genuinely feel that the world is mine. Released in 2010, the band’s first proper record, “Innerspeaker,” emerged dragging itself from Mad Max country, and slowly but surely the band has risen in the world of alternative rock and given us albums that have pushed the limits of what can be considered popular, but also have played in the game of bringing psychedelic back to the forefront.
“Innerspeaker” has plenty of good tracks, but the first thing you notice about the band is more than likely Parker’s similarity in voice to a well known Beatle. I can tell that it’s there, sure, but for me it’s a simple coincidence and I leave it at that. The music is good enough to stand on it’s own. ‘Alter Ego” whirls like a toilet bowl full of various colored waters that then make a tie dyed t shirt, while album opener “It’s not meant to be” transports us to a beautiful, serene world where anything can happen, even if things aren’t always golden and perfect.
The album can be trippy and slowed down at times, but they also turn it up in a way that makes the Flaming Lips look like passerby’s of the scene. That sounds like a slight towards the Lips, but honestly, they never made consistently brilliant albums, and aside from maybe four or so, much of it is hit or miss. Tame Impala on the other hand, so far has three records that only get better. On tracks like “Lucidity” and “Solitude is Bliss” they rock it in lo-fi wonder and present the 60’s in a whole new way. “Lucidity” is a great mid album track, but nothing get’s better on “Innerspeaker” than “Solitude.” The song simply kills it, and you can’t help but find yourself smiling and bouncing while the euphoria takes over.
Album two, titled “Lonerism” came into the world two years after the debut, and quite frankly surpassed all expectations. From slow, pulsating album opener “Be Above it,” to more immediate and anthemic songs like “Apocalypse Dreams,” this record isn’t only the next logical step for a band on the rise, but it showcases how much Parker’s approach to songwriting had improved in a relatively short amount of time. With the new ears getting connected to the band and their pulse, they were able to make an album so good that most bands could never hope to do something so great.
For real, this album rocked my world from the moment i heard it, and up until I became obsessed with the newest album(We’ll get to that in a minute), this was one of my go to records for years. So many of the songs are life affirming and thoughtful, while still being able to rock incessantly, especially a song like “It’s Feels Like We’re Only Going Backwards.” To me it’s a song about realizing all the mistakes you make as an average person, and the inability you have to make those wrongs right. Much of the band’s lyrics can be explained through emotions and energy. Take a song like “Mind Mischief.” It’s eye opening and somewhat autobiographical, but when Parker is singing “She remembered my name,” you’re right there with him experiencing the joy of that moment, and how invincible you feel.
But of all the stellar tracks on the album, the most intense funky and jamming one is “Elephant.” None of the other tracks are even as close to as intense as that song is, and from beginning to end it thumps, slams into shit, and makes its force known, you know, like an “Elephant.” Parker’s melody and vocal stylings on the song are also magical, but the real winner is the rhythm section and how the drums and bass keep the churning going.
Soon after the release of “Lonerism,” the band was beginning to get noticed. Solid sets at Bonnaroo and Coachella paved the way for the band to triumph in all places, and of course, the brilliance of the record helped to land them on multiple Year end albums list. But of course, as an artist trying to make his mark with meaningful material, you are never satisfied, and consistently try to bridge the gap between what you see in your mind and trying to bring it to the outside world.
That need and want is represented on the band’s third record, “Currents.” Now, we still have a few months to go, but so far this has been the big record for me this year. The making of the album was difficult from accounts I’ve read, but it paid off big dividends. Recoding in a small room with only Parker present, “Currents” is what happens with a psychedelic rock star sets out and succeeds in making one of the better R&B records of the decade. Just listen to it, and tell me this isn’t a slow groove type of record. The first time I heard it is was like what would happen if Tame Impala and Frank Ocean made a baby.
From the first track and lead single “Let it Happen,” the record flows in and out, ebbing it’s way to musical salvation. “Let it Happen” also showcases how jam oriented the band can be, bringing us through a nearly eight minute track that for the majority is just electronic beats going in a gradual manner.
I simply can’t get enough of the album. Parker has described the album as not a breakup record, but the meaning and purpose of a breakup is written subconsciously all over “Currents.” I myself am still going through emotions following the dissolution of a very long relationship, and when Kevin sings “There’s no future left for you and me,” on “ Yes I’m Changing” you feel the pain in his heart, and if you’ve gone through something similar, those feelings are right there with you. Another gem comes to us by the all too brief “Disciples.” It’s under two minutes, and more or less acts as a quick interlude in execution, but it’s just plain marvelous. It’s one of the best tracks on the record, and desperately leaves you wanting more.
All in all though, “Currents” not only stands up to the other records, but it very likely defeats them in terms of balance, the thought that went into it, and also sheer talent. Parker is getting better at writing songs, and if each album keeps going the way they have been, who knows how much more awesome they could get. Thanks for reading, see you Monday!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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