We’ve given up on even calling Tame Impala a band now. Tame Impala is a Kevin Parker solo project through and through, and really that’s how it’s been from the beginning. Over the course of three albums, Parker has been in sole charge of the music, from conception, to writing, to recording, to producing. The only time Parker needed some company was for when ‘Tame Impala’ went on tour and he needed one fella to play a kazoo, another to run the oscilloscope, another to fix all the broken wah peddles and someone else to feed him ham and cheese toasties during extended periods of noodling.
Read any interview, feature or review of Tame Impala, and you’ll find that the press have even given up using illustrative group photos of the band and instead just use ones of Kevin Parker looking all lonesome.
Like this one…
This increasing sense of self-imposed isolation has been a theme of Parker’s throughout his work. Tame Impala’s 2012 follow-up was even called Lonerism just to smash the nail thoroughly in its mournful little face, and now Parker has done the inevitable and written himself a break-up album. Although Currents isn’t really a break-up album in the traditional sense of the term; in the way that it might comfort someone who has also had their heart broken, because Parker is in fact the one who left. Saying to his girlfriend “I just need some time to think and be with myself, to concentrate on my music because I’m my most creative when I’m on my own without you girling up all my stuff yeah.” I would imagine.
But maybe that’s a good thing, because Christ almighty nobody needs to hear an album-length psychedelic version of Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without You’. Instead we have 13 tracks of faintly sexy, dreamlike funk, which basically says to Parker’s ex-girlfriend, “I’m finally realising how sexually attractive I am to other women, so you may not want to read any music news websites or check your Facebook for a while as you may see me with a different Australian bikini model every night.” I would imagine.
Anyway, Currents is great. Initially I never really liked Tame Impala and have said some terrible and possibly uneducated things about the modern psychedelia revival in the past, (“It’s the audio equivalent of stroking a terracotta pot”, “The latest MGMT single is the very lowest point in all of human cultural development”) and there’s certainly something valid in what music critic Leon Barton suggested when I asked him what the difference was between modern psychedelia and classic psychedelia…
Classic psychedelia was mainly influenced by drugs, whereas modern psychedelia is mainly influenced by classic psychedelia.
Currents sees Tame Impala dispense with the usual derivative self-indulgence common in most modern psychedelic bands and instead crafts something entirely refreshing, with meaty hooks, seductive grooves and sexy bass-lines. Perhaps its clearest influence is Hot Chip, who mine the same nerd-on-the-dancefloor niche, pumping similar studio techniques and rhythms into tracks that often betray the fragile weirdness that led to their creation. Check out the slowed-down vocal on ‘Past Life’, the crunchy bass on album highlight ‘The Less I Know the Better’ and the wonky tempos of ‘Love/Paranoia’.
Unlike Hot Chip though, Parker has less of a grasp on variation. Often during Currents, tracks disappear into the next and you find that you’re just floating above it all completely separate from the experience. This isn’t helped by Parker’s ethereal falsetto that stays in the same phantasmagorical state throughout its length. You may find that both of you are having an ‘out of album’ experience, only Parker’s will lead him to another spiritual plain of understanding. Yours will just have you mentally writing a shopping list and wondering why sometimes your T-shirts come out of the wash smelling funny.
Ultimately though Currents is a career-best album, that has enough pleasant surprises and moments of originality to keep it from disappearing fully down a giant psychedelic bumhole. It also makes a change for a reclusive single man to do something so appealingly creative rather than just playing Arkham Knight for 52 hours straight and contemplating which of his old school friends he would send a letter-bomb to.