“I realised we’d never seen people dancing to our music,” Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker told NME earlier ths year. It troubled the frontman: which is why, months later, here we are, on the verge of a new album from the psych-loving Australian, apparently inspired by Goa trance and Indian beach raves. But is ‘Currents’ really a dance record? And can it match the sublime character of 2012 album ‘Lonerism’? Here’s a track by track breakdown…
Let It Happen
Gone is the digital clutter and gauzy guitar fuzz of before, usurped by a more urgent and modern sound: street-strutting Northern soul drums cutting through a bright, clear mix as over the course of a danceable multi-suite odyssey Parker emerges from his last album’s ether of alienation like a glorious golden peacock. That or a guy who has ditched the bongs and bedroom navel-gazing for the big wide world. “I can hear an alarm, it must be morning” he sings majestically before a finale which, with its vocoder-treated vocals and cyber-tooled guitar work, has classy shades of Daft Punk.
Not so much a song as what appears to be a discarded excerpt from some aborted beat track. One hundred or so inconsequential seconds of twiddled synthwork, Parker’s misty utterances and cosmic lounge music, every bit as nonsensical but intriguing as its title.
Another first for the Aussie: groove. The slinking bass and beat that transports ‘The Moment’ has a lilt so soothing it’s practically a back-rub, over which all the underlying angst and self-doubt which anchored even the most chilled tracks on ‘Lonerism’ becomes ancient history, as Parker sips sun-warmed Pina Coladas in the rose light of Australian sunsets and contemplates good times yet to come.
‘Yes, I’m Changing’
Parker once again, and to glorious effect, applying his falsetto to sweet 1980s synthpop. The title is self-explanatory: this is a man in flux. Honest, understated and deeply moving, the lyrics are direct and honest as they are revealing of Parker’s transformation from scared shut-in to love-filled wonder-naut. “Another version of myself I think I’ve found at last” he sings. “I felt the strangest emotion but it wasn’t hate… for once.” The song might really about letting his girlfriend know that all this can be hers, if only she trusts him “I can’t always hide away, curse indulgence and despise fame, there’s a world out there and it’s calling my name…”
Floating somewhere between the hazy 1960s melancholy of ‘Lonerism’ and the decidedly more camp, romantic sorrows of 1980s torch ballads, is ‘Eventually’. Like ‘Let It Happen’ the song again concerns born dreamer Parker climbing down from his cloud and resigning himself to adulthood. Or in other words, reality. “I know just what I’ve got to do… and it’s got to be soon but I know we’ll be happier,” he coos. A kind of sunblast of synths (see every Passion Pit song ever made) follows, at which point the track balloons with a good deal of fragile but mighty-hearted hope. Gorgeous and doomed in equal measures.
Another non-track/interlude, all of 56 seconds long. Features space-age electronica and some guitar notes. Alrighty then.
‘The Less I Know The Better’
You can’t half tell Parker is a newborn Fleetwood Mac fan on the (almost but not quite) funky ‘The Less I Know The Better’. While the punchy drums and coarse base guitar sound are a tad too Detroit-tough for the Mac’s tastes, the sugary atmospherics and glassy chimes that grace another show-stopping chorus come off like a soft-focus homage to ‘Rumours” famously super-treble-y, cocaine-informed production.
A yacht-rock inspired curio, filled with spoken word, with Parker’s voice pitched down to a Barry White baritone sex rumble.
In many ways there’s always been a fine line between the timewarp reverb-psych Tame and kindred spirits Deerhunter peddle and the chillwave of Ariel Pink. On ‘Disciples’ the Australian more than crosses that line. Combining late 1970s soft-rock and 80s synthwave to ear-caressing effect, it’s pure Pink, right down to the micro running time (1:49), pillow-y drum sound and that certain air of teenybopper grooviness which Pink always manages to make inexplicably creepy.
‘Cause I’m A Man’
Tape Impala’s first foray into R&B. Specifically the ‘Off The Wall’-era vibes of Parker’s childhood hero, Michael Jackson. With the Aussie’s girlish falsetto in full song, the production apes beautifully the uniquely buttery sound achieved on Jacko tracks like ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘She’s Out Of My Life’. Tame Impala’s sexiest song so far? Quite possibly.
‘Reality In Motion’
On ‘Reality In Motion’ we’re back in ‘Lonerism’ territory, with the Aussie simply unable to resist the super layered, fuzzed-out aesthetics of his beloved 1960s. But where on ‘Lonerism’ Parker mostly channeled the delicate Lennon-esque blues end of the period, ‘Reality In Motion’ is the decade as flamboyant freak parade. A cacophonous slice of whirligig hippy-rock, replete with flower-child imagery, trippy psychedelic flourishes and acid-mad choirs, the only 1960s prop missing is the reedy Hammond organ, substituted here for 1980s synths.
Another R&B serenade, but this time vaguely reminiscent of early Phoenix. It’s Parker’s answer to Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’, with the musician oscillating between remorse, nostalgia and residual distrust against a backdrop of polished production, synth strings and synthetic finger-clicking: “Are you sure it was nothing? / because it made me feel like dying.” The album is finishing on a darker note.
‘New Person/ Same Old Mistakes’
On ‘On New Person, Same Mistakes’, Parker has given over to oppressive sonics, leaden pacing, monotonous and gloomier lyrical content. The closer, with its lumbering hip hop bassline and lyrics about betrayal suggests his earlier optimism, like so many things in life, was never meant to last…