Tame Impala. Tame. Impala. Say the name just about anywhere these days and you’ll have ears pricked, heads turned, hats tipped, and we probably wouldn’t put it past a standing ovation, for the band is just huge, and the fan base even bigger.
Lead, co-founded and predominated by Kevin Parker, the Perth five-piece has been making waves straight off the mark from the humble beginnings of their 2008 self-titled EP. After progressing with a pair of J-Award winning albums; debut LP Innerspeaker in 2010, and 2012’s Grammy nominated follow up Lonerism, Tame Impala has accumulated in its wake a plethora of critical acclaim, as well as a massive following of diehard psych-rock fans who eagerly anticipate the next hazy, sonic installment from the boys that do it best.
Now, after pushing the release back a couple of months, the wait is finally over and the band’s third full-length album Currents, has arrived!
Coming in at just under an hour’s length, Currents has all the haze, distortion, and heavily layered synths that distinguish Tame Impala’s unique sound. It’s substantial doses of fades, delays, fuzz and reverb hold strong and true to Parker’s undeniable knack for synth-driven 70s psych-rock, with melodies and hooks that refuse to leave your head for days after listening.
Still, even with all its saturated synths, vocal manipulations and a densely layered sound boxes ticked – a sure sign of Parker’s solo-studio production and recording methods – Currents is a somewhat transparent, digestible, and easy listen. It lacks the mysterious and enigmatic qualities that the band usually nails. This could be in part due to Parker’s extended musical scope, taking on heavy doses of pop, severely uncharacteristic of the usual introspection and headphone-clad isolation that one usually associates with any Tame Impala release. Currents conversely would probably be best situated on high rotation radio, in shopper-friendly centers, and among a more social, perhaps even dance-focused, scene.
This isn’t to say the shift is necessarily bad. It certainly sets the band apart from its isolated bubble of psychedelic experimentalism, but it may certainly take some getting used to. High-expecting fans should be pre-warned that times of somewhat cheesy 80s balladry, and easily-to-follow pop arrangements are not an uncommon occurrence peppered throughout the album. A short release can be found on the brief 1:47 stint of suitably named trip track ‘Nangs’, with LFO pulses making way to a strings-like section with underlying bass hooks that drive the track forward, blanketed by the only incoherent and mystifying lyrics on the album (points!).
Currents’ stand out single however, is the perfectly balanced pop-meets-symphonic-dreamy-psych track ‘Eventually’. Psych-pop done right, the track opens with some harsh feedback that quickly gives way to the first sign of a more significant cymbal-dominant drumming section than previously heard on the album. ‘Eventually’ takes a necessary shift from the otherwise subtle back beats on the album, that are often overridden by jazz clicks, and subdued bass lines, to progresses into a hypnotic heartbreak of a track, with perfectly timed cutoffs and breathing space for Parker’s cries of bittersweet post-breakup optimism. Envelope all this in prolonged organ-mimicking synthesisers, as well as the siren-like repetitive synth that enters towards the latter-part of the track, and your emotional strings will surely be pulled to near breaking point. The most ethereal track on the album, ‘Eventually’ is an epic, upbeat, and melancholic tale of love lost and new beginnings.
A change in the tide, a test of new waters, Currents is sure to divide the masses. As its namesake proves, Currents can so easily catch you unawares in a rip; pull you in, suck you under, then spit you out, feeling completely disorientated in uncharted waters, and not quite knowing which way is up, yet at the same time, can just as likely take you to new and exciting places that you otherwise would not have found yourself venturing out to. For those who enjoy the comfort of the Tame Impala norm, Currents may be unsettling at first, but if you choose to go with the flow, and step into their new world, you might be surprised at where the current takes you.