“No matter what else I do, I have to make sure that Elephant isn’t Tame Impala’s biggest song anywhere.”
Kevin Parker - the musician behind Tame Impala – has come quite the distance in the last five years. From his modest days in the Perth music scene, to the heights of Grammy nominations and platinum record sales, Parker has spent the majority of his time acclimatising to success. His debut album, Innerspeaker, ushered in a new wave of psychedelic rock, introducing a younger generation to the sounds he, and a large number of his to-be fans, adored. A mesmerizing record that garnered worldwide praise, there are many that would gladly champion Innerspeaker to be their favourite record of the decade, thus highlighting its undoubted success.
His highly anticipated follow-up came in 2012, the extraordinary Lonerism. With it, came a slight change in outlook. Very much a psychedelic pop record, it continued in the direction ever-so-slightly hinted in the debut’s closing track, “I Don’t Really Mind”. While it still contained plenty of the traits that endeared many fans to Innerspeaker, it simply wasn’t the drug-induced head trip many were expecting. Instead, choruses were highlighted, drums were sharper and more precise – these things ultimately adding to its accessibility.
“I’ve always loved groove-based music – for me, Lonerism was like the gateway to that; there was a lot of groove on Lonerism.”
It seems almost fitting then, that Parker’s biggest hit is his quintessential psychedelic track. The pulsating – borderline roaring – anthem that was “Elephant”, ensured his status as the modern day figurehead for exciting, fresh psychedelic tunes. Parker has since voiced his feelings towards the song are conflicted; on one hand, he finds the track “empty-headed”; on the other, the song “paid for half [his] house.”
It wasn’t “Elephant”, however, that most impressed critics - and a great number of fans – from Lonerism. The delightfully breezy, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” was the clear highlight, and the strongest track in his catalogue thus far. Synth-laden, bass-infused, and drum riddled, little did we know that it would serve as the obvious precursor to his third, and most accomplished album to date. Described as the process of personal transformation, Currents follows the progression of a man, and his music.
Coming off a recent breakup, Parker’s third LP is very much a tale of change – one of growth, but also one of growing apart. It’s evident in the tracklist; “Let It Happen”, “Yes I’m Changing”, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”. However, the thematic change is also matched by a drastic change in sound and style. Gone are the fuzzy, droning guitars, and in come the precisely placed synths and drums. In fact, the entire record is masterfully produced; every flourish in sound seems painstakingly perfect, with delicate guitar riffs and stuttering drums finding just the right time to enter. In what could be billed as a disco (and evidently pop) record, it’s hard not to liken it to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, with it sharing many of the same qualities resulting from RAM’s meticulous preparation.
Opener, “Let It Happen”, is one of the LP’s definite highlights, and an inspired choice to lead the album – it serves as an obvious hint to the listener to adjust their sonic expectations. Disco-inspired, it bubbles along to a well carried synth-line and drum loop, before entering an outro very reminiscent of something the aforementioned Daft Punk would themselves do. Layered vocals alongside instruments, it’s a stunning introduction to a captivating record.
“There’s a world out there, it’s calling my name / And it’s calling yours, girl, it’s calling yours too.”
The shimmering “The Moment” follows this upbeat trend, but it’s in the gorgeous fourth track, “Yes I’m Changing”, where Currents truly stands apart. It’s the prettiest song they’ve created, a slow ballad about moving on and wanting for an end, synths glisten as the understated bass carefully drifts you along. “They say people never change but that’s bullshit, they do”, croons Parker.
This is followed by album standout, “Eventually”. The emotional crux of the LP, it serves as the track which best expresses the central theme, and does so in an obvious, unavoidable manner. “But I know that I’ll be happier, and I know you will too / Eventually”, Parker claims. The final word of the chorus carries with it a tide of emotion, and hints at impending struggle, as well as relief - the feelings succeeding a break up last far longer than any expect. Aside from the lyrics, it’s a glorious track underpinned by its excellent use of drums, and one that would be an incredible experience live.
“Cause it feels like murder / To put your heart through this.”
Though devastatingly too short, “Disciples” is another Currents highlight; however, it’s the following track, “’Cause I’m a Man”, that serves as the pinnacle in the second half of the record. An R&B tinged ballad about the weakness of humans, but provocatively written so as to quietly ruffle a few feathers – which it has, Parker sings, “’Cause I’m a man, woman / Don’t always think before I do.” Currents then closes emphatically, with the layered outro of “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”, similar to that found in the opener, captivating the listener until it’s final, fading, note.
Currents will undoubtedly be a divisive record, one that may test the patience of his original fans, but also attract plenty more. One can only hope listeners get on board, as Parker says that with each album, he inches closer to the ‘ultimate kind of music’ that he would listen to. I, for one, can’t help but agree, and think that each record thus far has been a distinct improvement upon the last. It’s a truly impressive, and immersive, LP. If Lonerism was one of 2012’s very best albums, Currents will very much be one of 2015’s.