Album Review: Tame Impala – Currents

Currents

tame-impala-currentsReleased  20th July 2015

Words: Nick Jacques

My aim of this review is to try and not be too bias as I am a bit of big fan of the psych genius, ozzy brain child that is Kevin Parker. From when I first heard Innerspeaker, their debut album, no one had really heard of them at that time but they still managed to sell out the Roundhouse and since the breakthrough psychedelic opus that was Lonerism, the hype has multiplied into something unprecedented and Kevin Parker has found himself at the front of a crest of creative musical talent. And for earning this accolade, the hype surrounding the 3rd offering Currents has been nothing short of unnoticeable. Media outlets like BBC 6 Music have been plugging the tracks Let It Happen and ‘Cause I’m A Man (if somewhat quite a bit!) to build the momentum leading up its release.

And I’ve got to say that for the most part, Currents is an album full of sublime bass driven, luxuriously layered synth pop. Imagine fellow Aussie contemporaries Empire of The Sun jamming with the Bee Gees and Stevie Wonder squeezing into the rehearsal studio for a funky threesome. Or Daft Punk (Random Access Memory circa) hanging out with a more upbeat/happier version of The Boards of Canada and you’ll have a decent impression of what direction Kevin Parker is trying to take the music in. It’s a complete makeover in relation to its 2 predecessors and I think fans of Tame Impala will by and large take a shine to Kevin’s diverting tactics which he has so often displayed in the past when writing new music under the Tame Impala moniker.

However, Currents might not be to everyone’s liking. As I said this is a completely different sound from the previous albums so for those of you who are still lost the drenched guitar reverb of Innerspeaker then there might be a struggle to comprehend that there is little or no crunching guitar workouts on offer here at all. But Parker is an open-minded individual and likes to expand his horizons, a strong sign that most of the great artists of the past decade or two have had to adjust their creative slant in order to keep on top of their games and still win plaudits for their efforts.

Tracks like Let It Happen really take Parker’s musical pallet to a different level. It’s a 8 minute experimental disco/dance floor nugget which half way through starts to descend into a passage of record-skipping before a grand synth orchestration wraps itself around the beats and then dives back into the leading soulful instrumentation – undeniably jammy but impressive stuff all the same.

There are plenty of standout tracks here including the irresistible funky strut of The Moment which recounts Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground and a pinch of Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel.

Next up is Yes I’m Changing – This is a reflective slice of synth pop which projects themes of coming-to-terms with life changes and adapting to different environments. This certainly feels like an album in which Kevin Parker is changing as both a musician and as a person and he’s willing to take us on a ride into his wondrous psyche which he possesses. Lyrically Parker displays openly how he’s trying to change and how he’s trying to come to terms with this. This seems to be an on-going theme throughout the album. Other highlights include Eventually – which is another hazy electro mid pace head-nodder which has good vibes pouring from it.

Things pick up with the funky ass punch of The Less I know The Better – which has a sweet pristine bass groove coupled with a confident drum strut and a vocal style ever so slightly leaning to that of Phil Collins – particularly when he tries to hit the high notes! Then yet again proceedings take another yet pleasing turn with Past Life – To me it recalls Radiohead’s Fitter, Happier (Ok Computer track) because it has a random robot-style voice talking through a lush trippy segment of soulful electro beats and Parker’s blurry vocals swooning in and out too.

The track Disciples showcases a brief but danceable & enjoyable soulful groove that will no doubt get fans trying to break dance and the lead single ‘Cause I’m A Man sees Parker at perhaps his most fragile and open as he croons over yet more waves of synth and works this to perfection as he really tries to hit the high notes and does so pleasingly.

Reality In Motion is another ice-cool slice of bass driven synth and reverb which keeps the listener’s attention gripped and finishes with a satisfying flourish of repetitive beats and seems it’s about to implode before dropping short of the mark. The ideas seems to keep on coming with each track and you never quite know what Parker will come up with next.

Final track New Person, Same Old Mistakes is again bursting with new ideas and serves as a reminder that Parker is always willing to expand his horizons and try new sound textures and shapes and still come up with a concise design that still feels and sounds like Tame Impala.

To me it’s New Person, New tricks! This may not reach the grand psychedelic heights of Lonerism in terms of the music but it has a much more positive direction in terms of the lyrics and the attitude which Parke is projecting here. He’s saying that he doesn’t want to any longer be perceived as some crazy genius, cut off from society and holed up in a basement in Perth, Australia or compared to John Lennon but more like he wants to share this moment with everyone and invite them on a ride into his colourful and soul-seeped adventure of psych-synths and irresistible playful electro beats.

Who knows where Kevin’s mind-expanding musical extravaganza will take us next??

Watch the video for ‘Cause I’m A Man here:

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