Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Tame Impala - Currents
It’s not every career trajectory that follows a Cream–Beatles-Bee Gees progression with such unbridled success within just a few short years. Actually, there can really only be one career trajectory that follows a Cream-Beatles-Bee Gees progression so successfully within just a few short years, and that’s because there is only one Kevin Parker. Whether it would have been easy for him to replicate the brilliantly fuzzed out, guitar-driven, Revolver-era psych pop bliss of 2013’s stellar Lonerism is irrelevant. (Though knowing Parker the answer is probably “yes”.) He chose not to. Instead, he veered off to blaze a rather new frontier and has created Currents - what might be called one of the best break-up albums in decades.
Lyrics were never the focal point of Parker’s Tame Impala creations up til now – the words were distorted, obscured, layered beyond easy recognition, subsumed within the overall sonic package, not unlike Michael Stipe’s vocals on the first handful of REM records. When one could discern the lyrics themselves, they were nothing too terribly noteworthy, essentially chilled-out paeans to basking in life’s simpler glories. But on Currents, Parker retreats inward and lays bare his emotions in a self-revealing manner seldom seen, and the result is an album where for the first time in Tame Impala’s brief but glorious history, the words match the music in splendor and dramatic effect.
Yes, this is at bottom a ‘relationship record’, inspired by the end of Parker’s romantic and musical partnership with Melody’s Echo Chamber’s Melody Prochet, with whom Parker collaborated on the wonderful yet unfortunately unsung eponymous cd a few years ago. But to simply label it as such and call it a day is like calling the Eiffel Tower a bit of an edifice. Currents is indeed a monumental achievement, marrying an intensely intimate portrayal of Parker’s emotions upon the demise of a chapter of his young life with the swirling, melodic catharsis that has come to define all of Tame Impala’s discography.
The fact that on Currents Parker swaps synthesizers for guitars as the centerpiece of his musical arsenal isn’t as drastic a recalibration as some might suspect. In fact, most of Lonerism’s highlights were not nearly as guitar-driven as, say, “Mind Mischief” or the radio-familiar “Elephant”. What’s more of a genuine radical shift is Currents’ emphasis on the content and power of the sung words themselves rather than just using his altered vocals for swooping, melodic effect. Listen to the heart of Currents, the back-to-back throttle of the gently ebullient “Yes I’m Changing” and the sheer, unadulterated brilliance of righteous showstopper “Eventually”, and you’ll feel as if you’ve been eavesdropping on a private conversation, with Parker baring his soul in the first person with utmost earnestness.
Not all the tracks work as effortlessly as others, as one might expect when an artist ventures into newly explored territory, but the opening ambition of the meandering disco-esque opus “Let It Happen”, the exquisitely tuneful “Reality in Motion”, and the agonizingly short “Disciples” all rank with Tame Impala’s very greatest aural achievements. I’m not sure what Parker’s going to tackle next, but he’s set the bar so extraordinarily high over Tame Impala’s brief tenure at the top of the pops, it’s hard to fathom what Parker can’t do.
- Rhythm Slayer