Kevin Parker talks about ‘Currents’, Tame Impala’s third album, like the autobiography he’s not had time to write. “‘Lonerism’ is about always shutting out the outside world,” he says, “but chapter one of the next story, you realise that at some point there’s so much force around you that to fight it just takes more energy to shut it out. There’s a big undercurrent theme of transition, a transition of the self as a person. It’s about giving in to forces that you can’t control, even though your whole life seems to be wrong. ‘Let It Happen’ is like chapter one – it’s track one, but it’s also the first step. It’s about someone finding themselves in this world of chaos – they realise it, but they’ve always been blocking it out, they’ve always been stopping the outside world from coming in, like blocking their ears.”
When Kevin found himself in his own world of chaos – the whirlwind success of Tame’s 2012 second album ‘Lonerism’ and the three years he’s since spent riding that psychedelic glam unicorn of a record around the globe – he discovered a homely adventurer. The ‘Lonerism’ cash bought him a house in which he could set up a studio next door to a lighting studio, “where I can work on the visuals to a song at the same time as working on the song, which was magical, it gave it this other dimension. That was a luxury that I never had before. Just to be able to set up a studio and knowing that I didn’t have to pack it up because of the rental agreement.”
Here, he set about smashing psych to smithereens. “I think I just wanted to make songs that I had always wanted to do, but I’d always shut out, because I thought that those influences were taboo or not fitting the realm of psych rock. But the more I explore, the more I realise that those boundaries are meant to be broken. I’ve always loved groove-based music – for me, ‘Lonerism’ was like the gateway to that; there was a lot of groove on ‘Lonerism’. I never really found out how to make really crunchy dream pop, and at the same time making really hard hitting groove music with a strong beat – but I think I’m getting closer. Every album I make I feel like I get closer to making like the ultimate kind of music that I would want to listen to.”
Though, on paper, it sounds like the musical equivalent of Picasso improving Guernica by colouring it in, Kevin’s groovier tangent has actually managed to deliver a better album than ‘Lonerism’. From the Air-ish disco of ‘Let It Happen’ and ‘The Moment’ to the synthetic plastifunk of ‘The Less I Know The Better’, it’s consistently faultless rather than revolving around a planet-sized ‘Elephant’. Ironic, then, that the personal transitions it describes end up a bit of a mess, to be frank.
Sublime psych popper ‘Eventually’ tackles the struggle of “knowing that you have to leave something, that you’ve gotta move on, knowing you’re about to damage someone, and the only consolation is that a long time in the future, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to work itself out”. ‘Disciples’ is about the friends that don’t want to hang out with you anymore. And ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’? “That’s the last chapter,” Kevin explains. “It’s like the final battle – or the final stand-off between optimism and pessimism. You feel like you’ve evolved into a new person but at the same time you’ve gone full circle. You feel like this brand-new person but in the end nothing’s been changed because you’re making the same mistakes.”