Tame Impala were never meant to be as famous as they are now. Five years ago, Innerspeaker, the band’s first album, treaded lightly in the large indie pond. That album was the brainchild of Kevin Parker, doused in reverb, distortion, and subtle influences from psychedelic initiatives. Tame Impala made it seem like they were trying to sound like The Beatles for a new generation. Groovy tracks covered Innerspeaker with the use of traditional instruments. These songs were straight-cut, easy to swallow, and enjoyable. Two years later, Lonerism was released. Parker went further down the rabbit hole on this release with a more echoing space. The scalding guitar howls of “Mind Mischief” or the out-of-this-world synths of “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” were exhibits of the expanded Tame Impala sound. Where was there to go for the band? Could anything else be considered a modern indie classic in the same way Lonerism has become?
Enter Currents, the most revealing release from Tame Impala to date. Kevin Parker sounds like a rock god dabbling in his own real-world problems as each track drips into a cesspool of pain and loss. Currents cannot be revered as a happy record as the subject matter is far from it. The album is played out as Parker’s transformation into something he never was. The pressure of fame and being a household name in the indie rock circle is hard to grasp. Parker wasn’t even paid royalties on his first two albums and only recently discovered he was meant to. Now in the driver’s seat, Parker has control over where his music is going. Upon the release of lead single “Let It Happen”, fans were torn with its new sound. They weren’t sure whether it was should be praised as genius or tossed to the side and never returned to. After a few months and a few more singles to help support early speculations, fans grew anxious to hear all the songs in one cohesive piece.
The album opens with “Let It Happen”, a striking 8-minute romp with several technical details that can easily be missed on the first listen. The song is crowded, filled to a point at which the contents are spilling from all sides. Parker’s airy falsetto conducts the hum drum of the marching synthesized beats. “Nangs” cools down the place after the heated first track with one of the year’s most memorable drum kicks. For a track that’s only 1 minute and 48 seconds, it sounds the most complete. As the album continues, the excitability comes in waves. Up and down the album dips on a rollercoaster of tracks that seem more like an enduring climb than the payoff of a downward thrill. Songs like “No Past Life” fall flat with cheesy ideas and a hack job of musical arrangements. Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad with the interlude of “Disciples” bringing the album out of the shade. When the album finally ends, it seems like there should be more. Maybe “more” isn’t the right term, but it feels like there isn’t enough of the good stuff in there.
Currents is the most unique Tame Impala project yet. It speaks to many with its accessibility and catchy riffs. Kevin Parker narrates listeners through his personal woes with gorgeous falsetto and a ghostly presence haunting the spectrum of indie music. As he sings on “Yes I’m Changing”, “They say people never change but that’s bullshit”. Good for you for recognizing that, Kev. We won’t be getting a Lonerism part 2 anytime soon and that’s not a bad thing. The album may have its speed bumps but it has enough appeal to be blasted throughout the rest of the summer.
Currents is out July 17th via Interscope Records