Right, let’s get this straight. We’ve know for a while now that Tame Impala, the same band that brought the raucous guitar sounds of ‘Elephant’, ‘Desire Be, Desire Go’ and ‘Half Full Glass Of Wine’, have all but ditched the guitar based stuff for synthesisers and pastures new. Step into the mind of musical illusionist Kevin Parker and you’ll find the word ‘dance’ written over and over again on the inside of his brain. In big, shiny, fuck off letters too. He’s made no bones about it: Tame Impala have gone groovy.
Tame Impala are rebranding themselves, and it’s a step in the right direction. Currents, their third studio album, is a boogie-down kind of record, filled to the top with swirling synths, carnivorous feedback and captivating dance hooks. Teetering on the edge of insanity, Kevin Parker has nurtured Tame Impala’s sound like a child from birth. As he told The Rolling Stone, “I wouldn’t say making psychedelic music is my focus. That’s not the modus operandi for Tame Impala. It’s about making music that moves people”. Moving organically on from tracks like ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, Currents tapes together a mosh-pit of dance hits that become more and more dizzying with every listen.
Opener ‘Let It Happen’, for instance, captures the traits of a Kavinsky bootleg. Built around a foundation of twiddly keyboards and CD-skipping production – a sound that is inherently rhythmic in itself – Parker’s new found dance philosophy beautifully comes to fruition. Likewise, the punchy snares and irresistible electro harmonies continue on tracks like ‘The Moment’ and single ‘Cause I’m A Man’, a song that Parker has defended as not sexist, but lyrically “tongue-in-cheek”. Whatever you make of it, it’s mesmerisingly catchy, flavoursome and unhindered. Parker must be sick of the cliche comparisons by now, but his undeniably John Lennon-like voice meshes the drunken dance sounds together wonderfully, as he bellows “I’m just pathetic, that’s the reason why, in desperation, all that you can do is ask me why, cause I’m a man, woman”.
Although Tame Impala have veered away from the heavy guitar riffs that threw them into the limelight with 2010’s Innerspeaker and 2012’s Lonerism, guitars do make a couple of cameo appearances on the band’s new album. The tightly strung ‘Disciples’ breathes an air of Ariel Pink and Atlas Sound about it. Melodically driven, Parker still knows how to capture the imagination of a 30-something year old veteran stoner. Again, tracks like 1980s-esque ‘Past Life’ and ‘Eventually’ conjure up images of cracked kaleidoscopes and hazy Sunday afternoons. In this new step forward in Tame Impala’s evolution, the band are starting to filter out the heavy bass guitar for more robotic, synthetic bass lines. Again, the crunchy jazz bass lines of Lonerism are still apparent on tracks like ‘The Less I Know The Better’, but it’s on tracks like on the melodic ‘New Person, Same Old Mistake’, ‘Nangs’ and ‘Past Life’ that the ferocious, whirling bass lines come into their own.
Embracing change, rather than shying away from it, Tame Impala continue to grow from strength to strength. As their timeline inevitably continues, likely by riding on some sort of pink unicorn, their journey becomes more enthralling and euphoric. Much like how the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ditched their predominantly guitar sound in 2009 with the electro game changer It’s Blitz!, Tame Impala seem to have taken to the challenge of adapting their ways to something newer, fresher and distinct.
Whilst there is room for debate as to whether Tame Impala are abandoning guitar music for more commercially appealing ideas – an argument that is fraught with complexities and musical politics – the quality of their new album is undeniable. More mature than Innerspeaker and more daring than Lonerism, Currents is making itself at home in the UK album charts. And trust me, it’s a sound that’s here to stay… for now, at least.
For Fortitude Magazine: http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/album-review-tame-impala-currents/25852/