After the release of their debut record Innerspeaker in 2010, music aficionados across the globe were magnetised to the raw, dry psychedelic sounds emitting from Tame Impala, falling under the spell of a shy Western Australian lad named Kevin Parker.
Proving that lightning can strike twice, the Perth native was crowned a production wizard in 2012 for the magical and enchanting dream-pop meets neo-psychedelica creation, Lonerism.
Now, in 2015, with two totally different and timeless records under his colourful scarf, Kevin Parker has delivered his finest work to date – Tame Impala’s emotionally charged magnum opus, Currents, a record he penned, performed and recorded entirely alone.
The term ‘highly anticipated’ reads as a gross understatement when one considers the anxious wait for Currents after its delayed release and consequent drip-feed of songs leading up to the impending Impala D-Day.
Parker recently admitted in an interview with Stereogum that Currents was meant to be finished for release in May – however, despite his best efforts, some lyrics weren’t complete – which resulted in pushing the album’s release to July, causing him crazed anxiety, it was “the closest I’ve come to actually having some kind of nervous breakdown” he told the publication.
In the build to Currents’ release date, Tame Impala continually teased fans with a small handful of disparate addictive tracks, ‘Let It Happen’, ‘’Cause I’m A Man’, ‘Disciples’ and ‘Eventually’.
These four new songs were an emphatic statement that Parker had gone through many changes, including sonic direction, as well as alluding to the notion that he’d gone through some sort of debilitating emotional event, penning his most visceral lyrics in his 29 short years on the planet – this blue sentiment first displayed on ‘Eventually’ and ‘Let It Happen’.
‘’Cause I’m A Man’ was the taste-test that taught us that Currents’ sound would be all about groovin’ bass, danceable beats, suave rich RnB hooks and that the main instrument of power was no longer the guitar, but synthesisers.
In fact, ‘Disciples’, is one of the few songs where Parker allows his guitar to speak.
This short piece of shimmering psych-pop brilliance is about Parker falling out with a close friend, his soaring falsetto painting a helpless picture as he cries “there’s so much I want to tell you” as his sprawling guitar is given less than two minutes of airtime to do its thing.
One of the other few moments where the guitar shines is via the instrumental track, the flowing ‘Gossip’ that fills listener’s ears with wavering synths and floods of almost human murmurs, capturing that nervous paranoia one feels when being scrutinised by those around them.
Like ‘Alter Ego’ from Innerspeaker and ‘Elephant’ of Lonerism, Tame Impala’s latest cut too has it’s ‘what the fuck? Wow, Kevin!’ song that’s totally different from anything else on the album – and it comes in the form of the bone-rattling ‘Past Life’.
Parker perfectly encapsulates that overwhelming sense of insanity and anxiety that fills and spills from a person when they unexpectedly bump into an ex they’re not yet ready to encounter.
An auto-tuned speaking Parker reels-off an inner-monologue, telling of his routine day-to-day normalcy, which is shattered to pieces with stomach-turning distorted bass as he sees his “lover, from a past life”.
[include_post id=”452961″] As the almost dancefloor ‘drop’ booms, the whole cataclysmic orchestra comes together in bizarre unity, the auto-tune speaking the story as Parker’s Lennon-like vocals dreamily choruses “from a past life” alongside starlike, spacy synths. This tune may be hard to swallow for many – however this is Parker at his experimental best.
Currents lathers on melancholy with back-to-back tracks ‘Yes I’m Changing’ and its follower, ‘Eventually’. The former is unquestionably the saddest beat he’s written to date.
The gloomy synths harken the spirits of bleak ‘80s dream-pop, as a simple bass line and clapping percussion urges Parker to admit to himself “I was hoping and searching for something endlessly” as he contemplates hiding away from fame, before ruefully concluding that there’s a new world out there for him, he’s just not sure if he’s ready for it.
Despite its sombre sentiment, ‘Eventually’ is Currents’ light at the end of the tunnel and the turning point on the record, Parker acknowledging the end of a relationship, almost believing that things will get better, which is carried by the beautiful production of breath-taking harmonies that could have been plucked straight from Air’s Talkie Walkie, Parker’s favourite album.
Speaking of favourite records and their influence on Currents, Parker revealed his adoration for Air, as well as Supertramp and Michael Jackson’s Thriller on his widely documented Reddit AMA, as well as informing the NME of a coke and mushroom induced moment of enlightenment when listening to The Bee Gees. All of these artists have been melted together to create this funkin’ synth masterpiece.
Showing off his slappin’ prowess as a bassist on ‘The Less I Know Is Better’ as well as his aptitude for producing a dancefloor beat that could rival recent collaborator and buddy Mark Ronson on ‘Reality In Motion’, Parker has truly mastered yet another facet of sound with the aid of classic disco influences.
The RnB aesthetic of Currents may initially raised some eyebrows, however any Tame Impala fan would know that Parker has never wanted to do the same thing twice, which he’s very obviously alluded to on the closing of both Innerspeaker and Lonerism, the final chapters of each tome also reading as the prelude of the next epic.
The closer of Innerspeaker , ‘I Don’t Really Mind’, introduced the sugary-sweet dream-pop sensibility that coated Lonerism, and the 2012 album drew the curtains with the wholly immersive synth jam ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’, slamming shut one sonic experiment whilst simultaneously opening a new one – Currents.
It feels somewhat cheap to slap Currents as just a breakup album; the record isn’t solely a vehicle for Parker to vent his love lost.
Lyrically, it is equal parts dealing with what he has no more, moving and growing from such an event.
Instrumentally, and perhaps more importantly, Parker has departed from his woozy guitar-driven psych efforts and virtually created a new form of sound: a whacky meld of futuristic psych, disco, funk and RnB.
Currents may not be palatable for every listener on first rotation, however, this journey through both Kevin Parker’s emotional and creative state of consciousness is all about change – something that’s not always embraced at first, but something that betters us in the long-run.