Tame Impala

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Innerspeaker (2010) , 5.5/10
Lonerism (2012), 6.5/10
Currents (2015), 4.5/10
The Slow Rush (2020), 4/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Australian combo Tame Impala, fronted by Kevin Parker, debuted with Innerspeaker (2010) in the vein of artistic retro-pop. It's Not Meant To Be sounds like a spaced-out version of Magical Mystery Tour or an acid version of lounge pop. Except for a few moments of vintage garage-rock (Desire Be Desire Go) and quasi hard-rock (Lucidity and especially the Cream-esque Expectation), the collection sticks to that slow and mellow tone, with a peak in the cosmic Byrds-ian Solitude Is Bliss and a nadir in the tedious uninspired recycling of very old stereotypes of Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind. The electronic poppy danceable Alter Ego tries to revive "Madchester"'s disco-psychedelia. The instrumental Island Walking hints at musical potential that these songs don't exploit. The lengthy and sleep-inducing The Bold Arrow Of Time is a good example of how they waste it. The melodies are the weakest part of the project: dejavu, un-catchy, lazy. The electronic arrangements are a close second.

Lonerism (Modular, 2012), a much better arranged (notably Jay Watson's creative percussion patterns producer Dave Fridmann's multi-layered production) and lively work, still suffered from comparisons with Tame Impala's forefathers, but at least lived up to expectations. A couple of demented transfigurations, namely the panting barrelhouse blues of Be Above It mixed with Apples In Stereo-esque singing and vintage guitar vibrato, the baroquely cyclical and super-sweet merry-go-round of Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control, and the nonchalant beach keyboard-driven singalong plus jam of Keep on Lying, redeem the songs that stage an exaggerated revival project, like the too lush spaced-out litany Endors Toi, the too languid Mind Mischief, and the too digital Why Won't They Talk to Me? The melodic peaks are Apocalypse Dreams, with simple march-like refrains of Merseybeat wrapped in a symphonic apotheosis, and the falsely hard-rocking Elephant (which is to Tame Impala what Come Together was to the Beatles). Slightly better than the much hailed debut, but still way too much filler to justify an album. This should have been a six-song EP.

Parker contributed three collaborations on producer Mark Ronson's Uptown Special (2015): Summer Breaking, Leaving Loz Feliz, and especially Daffodils; and he probably learned something from Ronson.

In fact, Tame Impala's Currents (Modular, 2015) is a completely different album, a painstakingly arranged dance-pop album on which synths take over guitars, and smooth studio production takes over passion. Feathery electronics and vocals gently mix with steady dance beats and sound effects. And so the eight-minute Let It Happen is a lame synth-pop ballad until it becomes a (much better) wordless symphonic disco jam of the 1970s. The album overflows with languid soul ballads on which he can practice his falsetto and his implicit retro sampling, borrowing ideas from past hits. For example, The Moment borrows the finger-snapping from Soft Cell's Tainted Love and the riff from the Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World. The funky The Less I Know the Better recalls Michael Jackson, and 'Cause I'm a Man recalls a slow-motion Paul McCartney. The centerpieces of the album are somnolent pop-soul ballads such as Yes I'm Changing (with barely audible sound of traffic and a Bach-ian fugue in the mix) and especially Eventually (with booming bass synth and majestic organ lines). In both of them, the sound effects multiply as the song proceeds, but, ultimately, this is just Steely Dan for the new generation. His falsetto is less annoying on the brief sprightly power-pop ditty Disciples (but way too brief), and Reality in Motion sounds like a timid cover of the psychedelic Beatles or an attempt to repeat the "Madchester" sound of Alter Ego; and these are the best songs.

Kevin Parker/Tame Impala returned with the single Patience (2019) and the album The Slow Rush (Modular, 2020), entirely performed by him. The album is full of lame pop-soul ballads, crooned over the most unimaginative thumping beats, like One More Year and Borderline. Marginally more lively and creative is the Bee Gees-like funk vibe of Breathe Deeper, and at least the languid pop aria On Track has a stronger melody. Another strong melody surfaces in Posthumous Forgiveness, an atmospheric lullaby that recalls the prog-rock of early King Crimson. More catchy and bouncy is the syncopated Lost in Yesterday. Is It True pays tribute to British synth-pop of the 1980s and Glimmer to Detroit techno of the 1980s. All in all, a painful experience.

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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