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Album review: Tame Impala - 'Innerspeaker' (Modular)

The Aussie four-piece dip into their stash to produce a solid ounce of late '60s psychedelia

Album review: Tame Impala - 'Innerspeaker' (Modular)

8 / 10 The traditional, conservative view of rock music, it is said, is that “it peaked in 1967 and has been going steadily downhill ever since”. If so, then Tame Impala are Norman Tebbit times Michael Howard. They’re constantly striving to pull up the drawbridge and whip us back to a half-imagined belle epoque that ended way too soon for longhairs of their slender years.

The days when men were men, women were girl-groups, and life revolved around expanding your dome via the classic power-trio psychedelic blues rock acts like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Those guys – as gramps will tell you – those guys could really play.

Well Tame Impala can play too. They can play like no-one’s business. And as opposed to most updaters, who tackle this sort of
stuff from a flatfooted perspective, TI have understood that being virtuoso is a team sport: it’s all about the dynamics and interplay. Their multi-part duelling begins instantly – guitar, bass and drums orbiting each other in a complex, delicate synch, before Kevin Parker’s phased vocal comes over the psychedelic intercom to tell you your mind is about to be expanded, while long-time Mercury Rev producer Dave Fridmann works the mixing desk with all the stroboscopic flair his CV inplies.

The fact that MGMT have taken them tour speaks volumes. They’ve even got a lot of great ideas about how the world would be really nice if we could all, like, love each other and be free: ‘Lucidity’, ‘Alter Ego’, ‘Desire Be, Desire Go’, to take just one three-track run. ‘Solitude Is Bliss’ (groovy title) takes on Cream in the verses, before turning into The Beatles at their most lysergically languid in the chorus. ‘The Bold Arrow Of Time’ (man, what a statement) uses Jimi’s guitar as kindling for its stiff-funk blues riff.

For three school friends (plus new addition, live guitarist Nick Allbrook) from Western Australia, who made it in a shed four hours outside Perth, ‘Innerspeaker’ is a brilliantly confident body of work – one that captures the spirit of the complex, ranging, pelvic workouts of the their targets, if lacking in out-and-out highs. Bar the first track, there’s little that could give them a standout anthem beyond a general tie-dye wash. The classic flaw of anything so dangerously psychedelic and ridiculously confident is that it stares at its shoes too long, forgets where it is and drifts off into boredom. There’s a little of that too: ‘Jeremy’s Storm’ is the most guilty.
‘I Don’t Really Mind’ doesn’t really matter. Forgive it a necessary amount of monotony, though: ‘Innerspeaker’ is not so much an album to listen to as one to inhale. Catch them on The Old Grey Whistle Test sometime soon.

Gavin Haynes

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