Kevin Parker, the one man wonder behind the neo-psychedelic Australian group Tame Impala, has said some remarkable things in the run-up to group’s third studio album, Currents.
Parker has said that he wants people to feel able dance to his new record, that he bought a Justin Timberlake-esque synthesiser just to muck about and that he purposely went out of his way to create a “dorky white disco-funk” song.
Parker’s interviews in the run-up to his third record may well have left some Tame Impala fans a little bit worried. Admittedly, Currents is a stark break from its hugely successful predecessor, Lonerism.
But, if you can get over that fact that you’re more likely to hear keyboard riffs than guitar ones and groove rather than rock, it becomes apparent that at the core of this album are the very staples of a Tame Impala record.
The opening eight minute anthem ‘Let It Happen’ was the first promotional single from the record and it’s truly remarkable. Parker lets the track build to its pinnacle before it stops and stutters, as if you’re listening to a tripping CD; it’s the earliest indication that this record will certainly be more electronic than its predecessor.
Throughout the album, there are small interludes of music, ‘Nangs’, ‘Gossip’ and ‘Disciples’, the latter being released as the third promotional single. These interludes help the record flow and introduce us to some unique sounds. ‘Gossip’, for example, reverberates for what feels like an age, but is actually more like 55 seconds, before leading into one of the highlights of the album, ‘The Less I Know The Better’.
With this track, Parker has certainly achieved one of his goals. The track has an undeniable groove to it with its funky opening – it’s certainly one track on the album that you could dance to. What’s more, Parker’s vocals when the track breaks down are truly staggering. It’s a song that wouldn’t look out of place on a Michael Jackson album.
The combination of Parker’s characteristic melodies fused together with a new electronic direction has certainly worked. The track ‘Past Life’, which follows ‘The Less I Know The Better’ is perhaps the greatest example of this.
The first 40 seconds feature a low, distorted male Australian voice talking about picking up his dry cleaning and spotting a girl he used to know through his rear-view mirror. Then a foul noise invades the track, a Yeezus-esque sound, which eventually gives birth to Parker’s sweet falsetto. On any other album, this sequence would be a car-crash, but on this record, with Parker’s vocals, it just works.
What is notable about Currents is the lack of distinctive guitar sounds, like those we heard in Lonerism on tracks such as ‘Elephant’ or ‘Led Zeppelin’. However, the lack of guitar is more than made up for by the increased presence of groovy base lines, which are threaded throughout the record.
The record’s content is a story of lost love and personal reflection. Songs like ‘Yes, I’m Changing’ and ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’, the latter the final track of the album, are perhaps most indicative of Parker’s self-conscience change.
Change is probably the overarching theme on this album, and it’s a good change. As fantastic as Lonerism was, one of the tell-tale signs of a great artist is their ability to mix things up and head in new directions. As loathe as I am to give an album five stars, Currents certainly deserves it. Tame Impala fans may be skeptical by this new direction, but they should embrace it, because if they do, they will be richly rewarded with a fantastic album.