AOTW Review :: Tame Impala ‘Lonerism’

October 5th 2012


Kevin Parker carries the souls of psychedelic rock’s godfathers in his heart and has his brain plugged into the fizzling circuitry of a modern electronic music producer. But the hardware in his head has had an upgrade; this entity we refer to as Tame Impala has evolved. Ideas flow between Parker’s heart and brain at incredible speeds, swirling around, combining, separating, balancing. Step back in your mind’s eye and you’ll see a whirlpool of ideas.

Now hit play on the new Tame Impala LP and imagine Parker in his studio, sitting on a stool with his back against the wall, a single globe burning above him. In front of him is a higgledy piggledy collection of percussion instruments. Each hand clenches a thin piece of wood, his knuckles whitening as an endless mantra whispers in the back of his mind:


He hesitates for a second, then flicks a switch at the back of his head. Eyes glazing over, he surrenders to the forces inside of him that slowly whirr into life. All conscious thoughts are sucked away into a vacant corner of his mind and sealed in, and soon his hands relax their grip on the drumsticks – now Kevin is gone, and Tame Impala is here. There is no urgency, but when it feels right, the beast’s arms eventually come to life filled with vigour, powering its hands towards the tom drums suspended in front of him. Its wrists snap back and forward as they pound on the drum skins, violent but under control. As the creature’s insides flow into the drum kit, some of the hits start to distort and squelch unnaturally, their digital echoes attacking the air around them.

It is good, but more is needed.
An infinitely dense beam of colour immediately bursts forth from the very centre of the creature’s forehead, pushing waves of sound around this moment in time.
As the waves continue to swell and fade, the beast opens its mouth, broadcasting in otherworldly tones:

“And I know that I gotta be above it now
And I know that I can’t let them break me down
And I gotta bide my time as I’m facin’ the crowd
And I know that I gotta be above it now”

All this eventually sates the anomaly that sits on that stool, and it reaches behind its head for the switch.

This first track from Kevin Parker’s new album Lonerism is certainly an attention-capturing way to kick things off and showcase his melding of the analogue and digital worlds, but like its predecessor, InnerSpeaker, it explores many different moods and themes within these boundaries. Mind Mischief is a latter-day-Beatles-esque love song that sets you twirling around in space surrounded by fuzzy guitar licks and layers of phasered vocals singing sweet melodies, whereas ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’ takes you on a complete journey. It opens with what sounds like an electronically-altered harpsichord, before being carried forward by an irresistible drum groove which sits under incomprehensible lyrics. Synthesised arpeggios occasionally circle overhead after a strange conversational interlude, and eventually any pretense of song structure is dropped, leaving several mountains of delicious sounds to gorge on after repeated listens. There’s even a rare treat in ‘Sun’s Coming Up’: a raw ballad with nothing but vocals and piano playing simple chords and melodies, i.e. the antithesis of this musical project’s usual antics. Of course this particular track is drenched in the echoes of guitars before long, as there’s no better fitting way to close out a Tame Impala album.

It was fantastic seeing Parker with his band at Splendour In The Grass and Parklife this year. Their showmanship might be undermined when they’re preceding a band like Passion Pit, but their connection to the music is often far more interesting to watch than a guy jumping around on stage to get the crowd psyched. In one particular moment at Parklife last Sunday, Parker was noodling away on his guitar for a while as the rest played it down in the background, then all of a sudden each body on stage fell forward with their instruments, hitting that one single note together as they launched back to full strength as one unified sound… it was a powerful moment. As Lonerism is a noticeably more electronic record, it will be fascinating to see how – and if – the boys can bring moments like that to life on stage now. If they can, things could get very interesting with album number three.


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