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Record review: Tame Impala – Currents (2015, LP)

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“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but the ones most responsive to change” is a misquote often attributed to Charles Darwin, and it’s an idea vocalist and songwriter Kevin Parker seems acutely attuned to on Tame Impala’s contender-for-album-of-the-year third LP. Psych-rock has been the name of the game up to now, but would you expect such an accomplished band to trundle out the same smack as before? “They say people never change, but that’s bullshit,” Parker sings defiantly on ‘Yes, I’m Changing’, as guitars make way to more electronic (read: dance and pop) elements than on any TI release thus far, with notable exceptions ‘Eventually’ and the goofy disco-funk of ‘The Less I Know the Better’. His love of ‘90s Michael Jackson shows in ‘Love Paranoia’, while ‘Gossip’ recalls 1998-era Air and ‘Past Life’ gets deep into dreampop territory. There’s no big rock number in the vein of ‘Desire Be Desire Go’ or ‘Elephant’, but the addition of one doesn’t feel like it would be a good idea. In fact, this is the most coherent Tame Impala release yet. These are the times, people: some of the best Australian music is being made right here, right now. Well, in Fremantle, to be precise. Currents is the sound of Parker dropping his guard and embracing everything he loves about great pop music.

For The Brag

Live review: Tame Impala + The Growl – The Tivoli, Brisbane – December 2012

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Tame Impala are riding high right now; of that there can be no argument. Receiving heaped praise, awards, and inclusions in many album-of-2012 lists, the Western Australia band are enjoying a particularly purple patch since the release of second album Lonerism. Live shows, on the other hand, are a completely different basket of bananas, with mainman Kevin Parker recently describing his new live band as a “small, five-man orchestra;” as he felt the need to add a new touring member in order to incorporate the new layers of sound found on Lonerism. A sold out Tivoli, legions of fans queueing down the street, and a hot Brisbane Wednesday night awaits the psych-rock quintet as we look forward to hearing some new sounds. Tame Impala, our minds are yours for the evening.

Openers The Growl are under way as I arrive into the already bulging Tivoli; the Fremantle junkyard rockers are mashing together a depraved digest of noises from a stage bathed in a deep blue glow. At first I take them for a manic avant-garde outfit, but they quickly win me over with their irreverent racket, complete with frontman Cameron Avery’s brilliantly-bluesy voice and hand-on-hip mannerisms that remind of a scruffy Pelle Almqvist. The band’s two drummers hit the skins hard enough to raise the dead on the excellent ‘Cleaver Lever’, and before they sign off, Avery requests that “Everybody gets home safe. Don’t drink and drive!” while seeming genuinely pleased and grateful to be playing on the Tivoli stage. Upon completion of their set, I have no real idea what I just saw and heard, but I know my ringing ears liked it – check them out.

The Tivoli is now filling to bursting point, and I get the impression there are many people here who don’t regularly go to gigs; the type who treat the experience as a chance to get catastrophically wasted and shamble around the place like lobotomised chimps. But not to worry, Tame Impala take to a stage now awash with amber and red lighting, smoke, and effects, as ‘Be Above It’ – conveniently the first song off the new album – starts up, before the music quickly melts into ‘Solitude is Bliss’, which sounds pretty damn fantastic, and simultaneously thunderous.

The next few songs flip between those from Lonerism and Innerspeaker, and for me, the earlier songs are superior, or at least they sound so played live. ‘It is Not Meant to Be’ sounds much fatter compared to ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, although the majority of the Tivoli audience lose their shit during the new songs, most notably on ‘Elephant’, which sees a mini mosh-pit break out several metres from the stage. My own desire to pogo withheld, I particularly enjoy the one-two of ‘Lucidity’ and ‘Alter Ego;’ the latter being probably the best thing the band has done in this writer’s opinion.

A fine finishing trio of ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?,’ ‘Desire Be, Desire Go,’ and ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ round out a deafening set, before the band come back on for one last epic jam, complete with The Growl’s Cameron on maracas, to finish up the night and send their fans home happy.

Tame Impala are a great band and deserve the plaudits they have been getting recently; Parker’s new songs are original and flaunt a range not present on the debut album. Stage presence and audience interaction may not be their greatest strengths, but the quality of the music is more than enough to make their show one worth catching.

Record review: Tame Impala – Lonerism (2012, LP)

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In what must be one of the most anticipated Australian releases of recent weeks, Perth’s Tame Impala have dropped their second album, and what a blissful mess of fuzzed-out prog-pop it is. Singer and main songwriter Kevin Parker recently said he felt the pressure of trying to follow up the phenomenally successful Innerspeaker was going to be too much for him, resulting in the need to pretend his new songs were destined for a side project with no consequence. His methods clearly paid off, and the proof is in the psychedelic pudding on Lonerism. Generous at fifty minutes, the sound is not unlike that of their debut, but with a few new twists and turns to keep the die-hard fan interested. Extensive use of effects pedals and the construction of expansive, immersive soundscapes are the backbone of the album, with a few synths and an added dreaminess thrown in for good measure. As the title suggests, the lyrical themes involve isolation and introspection, but are tempered with a naivety that retains a sense of a light-heartedness and more than a little hope. Single ‘Elephant’ is a highlight in a fuzzed-out T-Rex kind of way, while ‘She Just Won’t Believe Me’ rocks in ‘Helter Skelter’-like fashion before an abrupt finish at fifty-eight seconds leaves you feeling a bit robbed. If a classic pop song and a ’50s sci-fi movie had a baby, it would be third track ‘Apocalypse Dreams’; its soaring, searing synths beg to take you on a tripped-out interplanetary journey, or to some dark recess of your mind. It’s not all tip-top; the repetitive riffing on a couple of tracks – including opener ‘Be Above It’ – can be a bit much, but overall Lonerism is a fine album. (Modular)