Kevin Parker, Tame Impala’s lead singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboard player, synth programmer, kazoo player, organist, pianist, mandolin player, lead song-writer, backing vocalist, mixer, engineer and producer, is back. A consummate perfectionist, Parker has long been known to confine himself in solitude to write his psychedelic brand of music – and the writing of Currents was no different. This time though, the idea of Tame Impala has been turned on its head and changed into something many people did not expect. While Innerspeaker and Lonerism were both psychedelic rock records with an all-consuming focus upon the guitar, Currents has removed this key aspect of the band’s make-up.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. When Tame Impala first broke out of Australia, with their healthy dose of fuzzy phased guitar, Parker used standard song structures in his writing. Now, each of these aspects has been diluted. Influences for this psychedelic band have now spanned disco, R&B, pop, rock and electronic music and with the infusion of each of these genres, Parker has managed to form an incredibly coherent record.
Kevin Parker has long been known as one who can form impeccable pop melodies. “Solitude Is Bliss” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” are examples of this, and on Currents, Parker’s propensity for pop has been kicked into overdrive. “Eventually”, “Let It Happen” and “‘Cause I’m A Man” are all brilliant songs that, while transcending pop song structures, hold incredible pop potential.
“Let It Happen” is the opening track for Currents and it sets this fifty-two-minutes-long odyssey off in style. It’s the band’s longest track to date, formed using incongruent song structures to create an atmosphere comparable to their previous efforts, just using completely different instrumentation. This song, as the opening piece, is where the new Impala direction is at its height of potency and it kicks of Currents in a dynamic fashion. The inventive ‘CD skip’ that sets off this songs’ multi-layered edifice (towards the middle of the track) can confuse at first, but it shows progression from the less-original song structures of Lonerism and is one singular moment that shows the growth that Parker has experienced.
This sense of freshness is felt throughout the album, but at a peak with album-stand-out “Eventually”. A ‘Song of the Year’ candidate, “Eventually” is the most emotionally charged piece on Currents and one that helps blur the line between the ‘old’ Tame Impala and the new as a comparatively hefty guitar riff is used to open the piece – and used in sporadic fashion to place emphasis on the incredibly emotive lyrical content. Lines such as “But I know that I’ll be happier / And I know you will too / Eventually” tell of a relationship that has recently broken. It’s a heart-breaking piece, but one very well formulated as Parker uses this song as the passionate nucleus of Currents.
Further highlights come in thick and fast on Currents – be they musical, lyrical or concerning production (all of which are nearly flawless throughout). “Yes, I’m Changing”’s “There’s a world out there; it’s calling my name / and it’s calling yours, girl it’s calling yours too” is an emotional line that is a personal favourite from the album. It comes on a quasi-formless song that takes on its own personality as Parker tells his girl “don’t be blue / there’s another future waiting there for you” and that the thought that people don’t change is “bullshit”. Furthermore, other fantastic moments on Currents come with “’Cause I’m a Man” – a voice of frustration – and the irrepressibly bouncy “The Less I Know the Better”.
In summation, Currents is one of the many strong albums that 2015 has proffered to this point. What makes it stand apart however, is the blending of emotions, disparate song structures and new direction that Kevin Parker has managed to include in the album. This puts it in the same league as other 2015 highlights as To Pimp a Butterfly and Black Messiah – in very prodigious company. Outside of 2015, Currents puts Tame Impala in the same league as Radiohead, Pink Floyd and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds as a band that have gone from strength to strength while pointedly changing their signature style.
Originally written by me for Forty5.co.uk
Released: 17th July 2015
Genre: Psychedelic Pop
Notable Works: Lonerism (2012) and Innerspeaker (2010)
Influences: Flaming Lips, My Bloody Valentine and Supertramp
Contemporaries: Pond, Temples and Unknown Mortal Orchestra