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Album Review – Tame Impala: Currents

The album cover for Currents by Tame Impala

Consider it confirmed: Kevin Parker is en route to be one of the luminaries of the early twenty-first century.

In fifty years, we will look back with fondness on Parker and Tame Impala and refer to him as one of the most groundbreaking musicians of the 2010s. We will cite 2010’s Innerspeaker and 2012’s Lonerism as pivotal albums in Tame Impala’s career and the evolution of neo-psychedelic music. We will refer to Parker the sonic descendent of John Lennon and recognize him as a songwriting giant.

Or we could skip ahead and say all of those things now. Tame Impala’s singular greatness is so innately obvious that it’s futile to postpone declarations of greatness and comparisons to mid-century rock legends. Why wait several decades to start showering Parker in the accolades he so rightly deserves? Patience is an overrated virtue anyway.

And it’s not like we didn’t wait. Almost three years removed from Lonerism, Currents is the latest installment in Kevin Parker’s ongoing quest to push psychedelic music beyond the navel-gazing and blatant sixties revivalism of his contemporaries. Here he mines the last half-century of musical development to thoroughly postmodern results, combining the psychedelic flow and stop Tame Impala mastered during Lonerism with disco, electronica and funk to propel the album into the unnamed future.

For all this talk of pasts and futures, Parker and Currents fit within their contemporary context with striking ease. Lead single “Let It Happen” broke into the Hot 100, attesting to the present appeal of Parker’s meticulous (read: downright obsessive) songwriting and recording process. Parker’s singular fixation with every last note and noise compelled him to push back the release date by two months and mix the record himself. In short, meet the current face of the if-you-want-something-done-right-do-it-yourself school of songwriting.

It shows. While Parker has always been a rather solitary songwriter, his status as such matches Currents’ inclination towards private pain and intimate moments. Synthesizers sounding more like distorted harpsichords anchor “Eventually”, a deeply felt eulogy for a dying relationship. The equally melancholic “Yes I’m Changing” drifts through the mind of someone shedding their old identity at a high price (“Life is moving, can’t you see? / There’s no future left for you and me”).

And yet to describe Currents as psychedelic heartache at its best is to do the record an astronomical disservice. Purists the world over have multiple opportunities to gnash their teeth, especially at the easily digested disco sensibilities of “The Less I Know The Better”. In less than two minutes, “Disciples” sashays closer to the dance floor than any track on Innerspeaker or Lonerism ever dreamed of venturing. Prior to 2015, Tame Impala and the word “total banger” weren’t exactly synonymous, but how else to describe “Reality In Motion”, a psychedelic flirtation with dance music and – dare I say it – a drop?

Critics and fans have tossed Lennon comparisons in Parker’s direction since Innerspeaker (and to be fair, the vocal resemblance is striking) but let’s not forget the other three Beatles if we’re going to open that can of worms. Like Blur and the Fab Four before him, Parker is capable of staggering sonic transformations that remain rooted in his distinct musical identity.

Because, hell, that’s what the greats do.

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Elle is a writer and art student based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter: @ellecoxon


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