Safe to say that few people expected Kevin Parker to go full Barry White, but on ‘Patience’ – Tame Impala’s first track in four years – the frontman suits up well as a lovelorn warbler. Underpinned by seventies disco nods and a sauntering percussive groove – ‘Love’s Theme’ by White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra easily comes to mind – it sashays its way through the heartbreak; putting a playful, dancey spin on the Perth band’s psychedelic pop.
Despite the vintage influences – traces of The Temptations, Todd Rundgren, The Trammps, and even slight hints of ABBA all linger at the heart of ‘Patience’ – Tame Impala’s abandoned dancefloor still looks forward; Parker’s crystal clear production pulls it into the 21st Century. The glimmers of a disco ball slowly casting spinning diamonds across an empty room have rarely sounded so delicious.
Though ‘Patience’ certainly sounds like a song about a love lacking in direction (“Did I count the days wrong? Did we just go back, all the way to step one?” Parker sings cleverly alluding to ‘Lonerism’s ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’) it’s also a song that grapples with the looming expectations around Tame Impala’s rising star. Parker has been working with some pop giants in recent years; Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, and Kendrick Lamar to name but a few. Rihanna even covered ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’. This summer, the band are set to take on some of the world’s most prestigious festival stages. For a pop outsider who prefers tinkering around in his idyllic South Fremantle studio to navigating the world’s red carpets, it’s a destabilising time.
“People ask me all the time, every time the show’s up,” Parker sings, “So what you doin’ with your life? It ain’t giving up.”
Despite the existential artistic questions that it struggles to answer, ‘Patience’ is a hopeful song; sticking to the expression you believe in, and shutting out the naysayers will ultimately reap the rewards that cash being flung at you just cannot buy. And if Tame Impala’s stadium-ready return is anything to go by, it pays to stick to your guns. Patience, at the end of it all, is the greatest virtue.