“Mind-bending”, “visionary” and “over the top” are words used most often to nail the Tame Impala experience.
The road, though, was marred with unexpected missteps – intended or otherwise— but the promise of greatness was kept fans on-side. Without realizing it, Parker was echoing US psych-funk meister George Clinton’s message to his fans: don’t adjust your sets, I’ve taken control of the show—and you’ll get your life back as soon as you’re groovy.
The ride starts here.
40 Tame Impala songs, ranked in order of groovy-perfection:
40. ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’
Some Tame Impala songs can be accused of not justifying their length, and this 5 ½ minute meanderer from The Slow Rush is one of those critters. “There’s no use tryin’ to relate to that old song” goes one line, which sums it up.
39. ‘She Just Won’t Believe Me’
During the making of Lonerism, Kev visited a friend’s studio and discovered a vintage synthesizer. The squeaks and squiggles on this were saved at the last minute by some guitar licks but by then the listener had moved on.
38. ‘Slide Through My Fingers’
The opening line “When I get up I’ve dreamt too long/ Everything else is half as strong” explains why this cut from the second EP guitar-drones to a messy ending that squanders its energy.
37. ‘I Don’t Really Mind’
A passable melody looking for a hook to hang on.
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36. ‘Skeleton Tiger’
An early 2008 Impala freeze-frame, with Kev playing all instruments and with what-is-life lyrics. Hasn’t lasted the distance, alas.
35. ‘Forty-One Mosquitoes Flying in Formation’
So what was with the broken drums and why did Our Kev’s pet cockroach die of starvation?
34. ‘Island Walking’
A fun jam session with bassist Dominic Simper and drummer Matthew Saville during the Innerspeaker sessions with Kevin whipping off a neat guitar solo. It emerged as a bonus track.
33. ‘It Might Be Time’
The lush keyboards and booming drums expose Kev’s admiration for ’70s proggers Supertramp.” It’s got that explosive quality, that big sound with introspective lyrics. I love that. They’re exploding outwards, inwardly.” A tramp pastiche but without the compelling twists and turns.
32.. ‘List of People (To Try and Forget About)’
Written at the end of 2012’s Lonerism sessions, Parker stretches himself as a lyricist, gloriously vicious and melancholic enough to evoke his Loner persona with lines like “And as the years go by/Your name will fade out gradually”.
But musically the quest for the atmosphere is thwarted by too many moments that needed focus.
31. ‘Jeremy’s Storm’
Guitars create the calm of a Perth beach before a change in mood as a storm comes. Compelling in its time but, given Impala’s later effective use of atmosphere, disposable.
30. ‘The Sun’
Also from the first EP in 2008, it took a time travel spaceship back to 1969 and took a left turn at the Woodstock festival.
Great moment from Innerspeaker where the flair for clever arrangements kicks in. Parker’s addition to The Loner character (“now and then it feels like in all of the universe, there is nobody for me”) is accentuated with the way the vocal call-and-response with distorted guitar.
28. ‘Sundown Syndrome’
Released as a stand-alone single in 2009, “Sundown Syndrome” still excites in the way it pinpoints to more illuminating moments ahead.
Standouts: the kazoo solo, the flange effect on the jazzily loose drums, the feedback outro, the title’s reference to the psychological phenomenon Sundowning, and the b-side cover of Blue Boy’s “Remember Me”.
27. ‘Why Won’t They Talk To Me?’
A thoroughly enjoyable simple track from the experimental Lonerism. Kev recalled those sessions at his Perth home as “this amazing time of unhinged experimentation and exploration. I would record until 5 am, I’d go to sleep and wake up and start again. I’d just be drinking red wine all night and smoking spliffs.”
26. ‘One More Year’
The exhilarating track – “four seasons, one reason / One way, one year” – assured us of the coming highs of The Slow Rush.
25. ‘Sun’s Coming Up’
Parker was very much into capturing sounds on his Dictaphone. This piano ballad from Lonerism accentuating his loner existence, singing about his father – “playing his guitar, while he’s dying of cancer / Oh my father, why won’t you answer?“ – after which there are sounds of his walking from the car park to a beach, a girl talking and the sound of the waves.
“I guess it’s recording my being alone even though I’m not,” Parker later explained.
24. ‘Led Zeppelin’
KP rates hearing “Good Times Bad Times”, the opener of the first Led Zep album, as “a watershed moment.”
He told Vulture, “In terms of rock music having a groove. That’s something I didn’t really appreciate until I listened to them” and John Bonham’s work as “the gold standard for drum playing, for drum sound, for everything.”
This is not so much a tribute but conveys the awe of hearing Zep music for the first time.
23. ‘Endors Toi’
Translated as “fall asleep”, it’s long and conceptual: moody, dark, and paranoid to some, spiritually exhilarating to others.
Building up to take-off with a compelling psych-rock workout, it flies up to a mountain where a cross-legged Parker intones: “Soothing repeat/ I look down at my feet/ It’s a hypnotist’s arm/ And it works like a charm.”
22. ‘One More Hour’
The Bic lighters are held up for this arena power-ballad which closes The Slow Rush. It’s full of Impala references – tinkling piano, smug guitar power chords and distant-in the-clouds vocals. It’s a testament to a new found prowess that everything is on course until the graceful end.
21. ‘The Bold Arrow Of Time’
Taking a psych-blues leaf from Neil Young or Cream, this Innerspeaker track has one of Kev’s most compelling guitar riffs from the top of his amp stack. It’s not the album’s centrepiece but a purple hazed journey between guitar chunks, pop sensibility and occasional twee-ness.
20. ‘Alter Ego’
By 2010 and Innerspeaker, a wider cross section of rock fans were zipping up their antennae to Tame Impala. It was due to songs like “Alter Ego”, rich in their visuals and execution, as synth and guitars twine around each other while Parker’s voice would come from behind a purple mountain in the distance.
19. ‘Half Full Glass of Wine’
The titular track from their first EP, Half Full Glass of Wine, shows the way Impala would make it an art form to catch the listener unawares. This leaps from jangling guitar and tish-tish cymbal to a leap to thunderous guitar and drums, and then go back to mellow, and then….well, you know…
18. ‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds (2020 Mix)’
The 2020 remix of this seven minute epic tends to spotlight the two strong points, the beauty of the melody and the pop sensibility of Parker’s voice as he intones “Some things have to change”. It fits more seamlessly into the gentle moments which kicks in after the 4:20 mark.
17. ‘Apocalypse Dreams’
The first single off Lonerism was written by Kev with Tame Impala member Jay Watson (his first to share writer credits) coming as a free download. It’s a cracker song, the type you’d turn up in the car or train, and be impressed by the depth in the deft instrumental and production touches.
This started as a fuzzbox workout instrumental during early Innerspeaker sessions in Perth. But when in New York remixing it with Dave Friedman, he decided there should be lyrics, to be done in six hours, and should be about regaining his senses. “I’d sit outside in the snow and try to think. I was literally losing my brain.”
15. ‘Breathe Deeper’
This piano-driven R&B funk workout and soulful voice fit into the mood of the rest of Slow Rush. The production has a warmth that not only puts the listener on the dancefloor but encourages a cuddle when the night gets late.
14. ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’
Tame Impala giveth with one hand and taketh away with another.
Giveth: beautifully textured with atmospheric keyboards, rumbling drums, swishing cymbals and spoken word excerpts.
Taketh: overly long uninspiring instrumental bit that fails to justify the track’s six-minute run.
13 ‘It Is Not Meant to Be’
This slow burner took all the reference points of Tame Impala and let them cast different shapes onto the canvas, thanks to Parker’s greater mastery in the studio. The surreal melody and his weary “I don’t have a hope in hell” sound stronger with each listening.
The Reset button is pushed with all the great moments of Impala present: thunderous guitar chords, swirly keys, fine melody, and Parker’s on a situation where he is about to destroy someone’s lives but hopes they’ll pull through.
11. ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind’
Obviously written as a live performer it brings in hip hop elements (includes claps and drums inspired by Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”) to instantly become a live staple for them.
Evoking descriptions as “salsa-tinged yacht rock”, Parker said he felt pressured by Impala’s record company to rush this out as a lead-off single for The Slow Rush.
In fact, when they performed it on Saturday Night Live on 30 March in 2019, Parker made up the lyrics as he hadn’t finished them at that stage. The song was about a lost weekend of sexual and chemical delights.
The album version was remixed with stronger bass and drums, the way Parker first imagined the song.
9. ‘Vital Signs’
According to urban legend, someone left a mixtape with this song on Kevin’s driveway.
The true story is that Impala and Midnight Juggernauts (who wrote it for their 2010 album The Crystal Axis) toured together and were besties.
Again Impala showed how they could cover an un-Impala-sounding song and make it their own—and generate 13 million YouTube views.
8. ‘Mind Mischief’
It features one of Parker’s more awesome guitar riffs. It also proves how Impala can make a track sound it was made live with full eye contact by the band when KP did all the instruments solo.
The video was shot at Ashlyns School in Berkhamsted, England. When he saw its theme of a student having the drools for his female teacher, the headmaster harrumphed he’d never have permitted if he knew.
7. ‘The Moment’
With Currents breaking Tame Impala worldwide, the upbeat love song “The Moment” with a compelling melody, was overlooked as a single. But it got played on college radio.
6. ‘Let It Happen’
In March 2015, the world was waiting for Currents to drop, as all indications were it was going to be huge.
“Let It Happen” was the first single, a marvelous three-pointer of an epic with an indication that the album had a new sound with KP indicating that mainstream success was still on his terms.
The single ran almost for eight minutes, including CD scratches, gibberish lyrics, and vocoded-like vocals that ensures it never outstayed its welcome.
5. ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’
Lyrically Parker pulls off two daunting subjects – his awkward relationship with his late father Jerry with whom he grew up in his teens after his parents divorced when he was three (“ever since I was a small boy no one else compared to you”) and his growing celebrity (“Wanna tell you ’bout the time I was in Abbey Road / Or the time that I had Mick Jagger on the phone”).
The vocals are lovely, with swirling keyboards and fuzzed guitar creating a light/shade effect.
4. ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’
Always meant as a radio breaker with a soothing voice and subtle arrangement, its appeal was confirmed when Rihanna did a soundalike cover on the Anti album retitled “Same Ol’ Mistakes”.
Aside from shooting him into the A-list, it certainly was lucrative for Parker: in its 14 hours, Anti had 13 million streams and a million downloads.
A combination of blues riffing, psychedelic signature sounds, and lyrics about bullying jocks made it an instant anthem. When Impala first came up with the riff at rehearsal one day, they were immediately fond of it. But Parker was surprised by its success.
“I always thought it was a bit shallow, a bit cringe. But now I appreciate ‘Elephant’,” he revealed during an interview with Apple 1.
2. ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’
This eternal track ranked Parker as a visionary, who lined up the dots of the original psychedelic era and adapted them for a modern-day audience. ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ works on every level: it has a compelling melody and shimmering vocals that, with technology skills, accentuate how it translates the lure of a dream, chemical or otherwise.
1. ‘The Less I Know The Better’
This is Tame Impala at their funkiest, spikiest and rhythmic. It came a year into Kevin Parker’s newfound obsession with disco music.
Originally he had doubts about putting it on an Impala album. “It has this dorky, white disco funk. I wouldn’t call it cheesy, but it’s not trying to be too cool, because the lyrics are pretty dorky and the groove is pretty dorky. But at the same time, for me, I love that kind of music” He became obsessive about making the track. He thinks it may have 1,057 partial vocal dubs (he’s not sure if it’s this one or “‘Cause I’m A Man”).
In May 2021, APRA AMCOS confirmed the song surpassed one billion streams.