17 Jul 2015

Tame Impala / Currents (album review)

Let's be honest, Tame Impala are absolute giants of 21st century music; they don't quite have the album sales of Arctic Monkeys or Kasabian, but as far as raw, musical innovation goes, Tame Impala's first two albums were absolutely world beating. Like, Lonerism, in it's 3 year existence has already practically become a classic in the same way that Loveless or The Clash are classics; everything from the cover art, to the opening whispers are so musically iconic. So with Tame Impala back for their third album, as far as progressive, forward-thinking music goes, this might well be the biggest release of the year.
Over the past 6 months, Kevin Parker's hardly been quiet about the fact he wants to change direction musically, so with the promise of an 'electronic' Tame Impala record Currents was something lots of people were seriously excited for. I think the talk of Tame Impala changing direction was incredibly exciting to me too, because they really honed their sound on Lonerism and if a fairly drastic reshuffle could be pulled off then I genuinely think it could be enough so that people talk about the Aussie band as some of the decade's greatest.

The album's opener Let It Happen has been with us for ages; it's the first single, and chances are it's on your iPod because it was free to anyone with an email address. It was certainly fitting off the billing Parker gave his new material; it had a stomping drum loop section that was basically a euphoric psychedelic ascension into heaven; but it also (like Parker said he wanted) could have been played in a club. Nicely mesmerising, but nicely danceable. I heard this song and I was really excited for Currents to come out.

Then the second single came out; Cause I'm A Man. This wasn't quite the same kettle of fish. It's basically a bit of the self-criticism we no and luv from Kevin Parker, but kinda lyrically evolving into a full-on crisis of his masculinity. I mean, the lyrics aren't really special or anything, but considering the song's called that, it's like, very inoffensive. And musically, it's kinda, eh - it's dreamy, well-produced, and the instrumentation is brilliantly arranged, but it's just so inoffensive and underwhelming, which I'm really sad to say is the story for quite a lot of Currents.

Tracks like New Person, Same Old Mistakes (the last song on the album), and The Moment are very much slow, and unexciting album tracks that are very well done, and very clean, but just not very exciting. Like it's good, ethereal background music, but if you sit down excited to listen to these songs you're 100% likely to get bored.

And lyrically, the album's not quite what Lonerism was, and it's just quite likely to make you scream "FFS Kevin, I GET THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO WRITE SONGS LIKE ELEPHANT ANYMORE", because the vast majority of songs on this album repeat the same message of "I've changed, and stuff" over and over again. From Let It Happen's self-aware addressing of public viewpoints of the band's musical direction ("all this running around/Trying to cover my shadow [...] I can't take it much longer"), to Yes I'm Changing's "they say people never change but that's bullshit" (and title), to the very last song's "I feel like a brand new person!", Kevin Parker tirelessly goes over somes words that figuratively go on and on about the musical direction of Tame Impala. And especially on Cause I'm A Man and Eventually, the vocals just don't sound very nice - they're kinda sung in falsetto and sound really nauseating.

I don't want to just sit here and slag this record off, because ultimately it is a quite a good album; a bit disappointing for Tame Impala, but it's still arranged and produced perfectly, and it's relatively simple to just get lost in it, because apart from maybe the run of the songs from Gossip, through slightly creepy Past Life, to Cause I'm A Man, where the album feels kind of disjointed, it's a nicely flowing album that has a really hypnotic quality. Love Paranoia, although similarly inoffensive, is a really great, hypnotic pop song, and despite the fact that it's in the middle of that bit of the album where nothing really flows properly and there's a couple of redundant segue sections, The Less I Know The Better might just be my favourite song on the album.

Ultimately, this isn't a positive review of a record I expected much more from, but a number of things just let this record down too much for me. Nothing's really particularly exciting, and like The War On Drugs' album last year, it opens with a stunning 8 minute masterclass, and the rest of the record can't quite keep up (although both albums drew in/will draw in lots of praise). When Parker's voice gets too nasal and nauseating and he goes into that falsetto it really puts me off the sound of the luscious instrumentation, and the fact that he's saying over and over about changing and stuff, it'd probably be better without the whole high pitched voice thing.

I know I don't really like this album as much as I'd have liked a Lonerism Part Two, but despite the fact I don't like this record, the brave change of genre gives me high hopes for the future of Tame Impala (much more than it would have done it was like their past psych-pop efforts). I think this band's next stuff will be far more exciting, and I'm really optimistic about their future. Not a great album, but a promising one.


(written by calum cashin)