Science and Tech Editor, Lewis Norman, looks ahead to psychedelic rock Aussie quintet Tame Impala’s third studio album, Currents.
“Currents is a record searching for an identity rather than asserting its own.”
17 July 2015, Modular
[dropcap size=small]K[/dropcap]evin Parker has gone disco. Kevin Parker has written a hip-hop record. Tame Impala are a pop band now.
Just a few of the ‘criticisms’ of Tame Impala’s Currents that I heard prior to listening to it myself. In fact, I’d heard so much genre-specific lexis flying about that I had genuine concerns regarding Tame Impala’s latest offering. To my relief, these critics had missed the point of Currents entirely. Yes, from a fundamentally melodic perspective, Currents draws on pop influences to a greater degree than Lonerism and Innerspeaker– that’s what you get when you spend a great deal of time in the studio with pop heavyweight Mark Ronson. But Currents is so much more than this; Currents is an album in transition, a record searching for an identity rather than asserting its own.
Opening track ‘Let it Happen’ – an eight-minute dance odyssey – establishes this sentiment. The track wombs gently from loud to soft, dabbling in swooning synths and trickling guitar lines amidst croons of “All this running around; I can’t fight it much longer”. Pensive and investigative, the track acts as the perfect transition from psychedelic melancholy of Lonerism into exciting new territory: an exploratory album bounded by unfolding synths and Parker’s lamenting falsetto.
Currents commences to meander through romanticised indie-pop tunes. Despite occasionally coming across childish from a lyrical perspective; ‘They say that people never change but that’s bullshit; they do’ from ‘Yes I’m Changing’ being the prime example, Parker never ceases to look forward. Lonerism may have harkened back to 1960s psych-rock but Currents evolves further. There is a slight twinge in my heart that longs for the occasional meaty guitar riff or a seemingly random drum solo but I know this isn’t the mood that Parker wants to create. Instead he invents a futuristic soundscape, moulded from an oceanic bloom of synths, and it is equally as absorbing. Standout track ‘The Less I Know the Better’ plods along at the same pace as ‘Elephant’ but attacks it from funkier angle, encouraging you to dance along to it. It’s quite refreshing, that’s for sure.
You simply cannot fault Parker’s touching honesty and the way he cleverly filters subdued feelings of angst into his songs. Unfortunately, you can criticise his songwriting and it baffles me how tracks such as ‘Past Life’ actually made it onto the album, especially considering that instrumental tracks such as ‘Nangs’ and ‘Gossip’ appear to have been robbed of their full potential as standalone tracks. It is sobering more than anything else because you finally realise that Parker can write a bad song and it has become a frustrating blemish on his record.
Thankfully, ‘Disciples’ kicks in with bombastic pop chords, almost making you forget about the lacklustre ‘Past Life’. As Current’s highlight, ‘Disciples’ is its most uplifting moment, conjuring images of waking up in America with a huge plate of pancakes dribbling with maple syrup in front of you. Drifting into ‘’Cause I’m a Man’, it’s amazing how far the record has come so far; it’s as if Parker started writing Currents as one person and ended it as another. In much the same way, I’ve reached the end of this review and begun to think that I’ve over-analysed it; maybe I’m changing too. Strip away the synth and you have a beautifully candid collection of songs. Did we really want anything else?
Lewis Norman, Science & Tech Editor