Tame Impala - Currents

by Justin Pearson Rating:9 Release Date:2015-07-17

Kevin Parker is on a roll - a roll that's propelling him and his Tame Impala project forward wonderfully. What was only hinted at on previous albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism has become crystal clear with Currents.

Parker set out to make a record that people could dance to, something that can be seen as a statement-of-purpose. This change of direction hasn't affected his already established gift for melody in the least. It's not so much a turnabout in sound as an experiment - or rather, a refinement - sharpening Parker's steady control as a musician/songwriter/vocalist.

This is clear from the get-go. The effervescent, reassuring 'Let It Happen' rises up like a waving flag and works as a title track of sorts with its obvious theme of letting go and not worrying too much about the world going on around you - flowing in the "currents" of life: "I heard about a whirlwind that's coming 'round/ It's gonna carry off all that isn't bound/ When it happens I won't be holding on/ All this running around/ I can't fight it much longer/ Something's trying to get out and it's never been closer/ If my take-off fails/ make up some other story/ If I never come back/ tell my mother I'm sorry." Musically and lyrically, it's an onward-moving song that serves to encapsulate not only the changing tide of Parker's music, but also the theme of the entire album, which seems to be mostly concerned with breaking ties to things/people that needlessly bind us.

Although radically different than anything in the Tame Impala catalogue, 'The Less I Know the Better' is probably the tightest hook he's ever written. It's a throwback mix of 70s disco/funk and 80s pop bliss, making for a warm, glowing grooviness equally suited for a dance party or road trip.

Even more impressive is 'The Moment.' The driving melody is buoyed by perfectly-placed beats and highlights Parker's capability as a producer with stunning clarity. The synth-slash breakdown at the 2:19 mark is a spine-tingling moment that becomes even more heightened with the insistent drum-stutter kicking in and gaining intensity before abruptly stopping; you're then put back in the song and life resumes. It's akin to an out-of-body experience.

Ranking highly with Tame Impala's best work, 'Cause I'm a Man' is a giant of a song, gentle though it may be. A smooth, 80s-tinged ballad that exposes Parker's feelings of weakness, it's huge in feeling. It's made even more palpable with a proper pop-like build to the gut-punchy, supremely satisfying chorus: "Cause I'm a man, woman/ Don't always think before I do/ Cause I'm a man, woman/ It's the only answer I've got for you." The female gasp at the end of each refrain solidifies the sentiment.

A move away from the well-crafted psych-rock that defined Innerspeaker and Lonerism, Currents embraces an adventurous new path that's no less exciting - or masterful - by subverting those earlier rock conventions for a new pop sensibility which puts on brilliant display Parker's talent as a chameleon-like shifter. The colors, bends, dips and flourishes are still here, just applied with a more strongly-abled, rounded palette. It's big, kaleidoscopic, and lasting - not just of 'the moment'.

Parker has peeled off the genre label that's been stuck to him and created a record that's basically flawless in terms of ambition and execution. If, like him, you're someone who's open to change and the excitement that new music brings, don't hesitate to embrace this obviously soon-to-be classic. Take a cue from Parker himself on 'Yes I'm Changing' when he sings: "Yes, I'm older/ Yes, I'm moving on/ And if you don't think it's a crime than you can come along with me."

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