By Ed Jones
When a band announces a new single that is almost entirely different to anything it has released before, it always evokes a sense of fear and excitement. After all, had Radiohead not completely shifted their style into icy, electronic minimalism, we wouldn’t have Kid A, or if Modest Mouse hadn’t moved away from the raw lo-fi aggression of their first two albums into even stranger and haunting territory we wouldn’t be listening to the Moon and Antarctica. Of course sometimes these shifts in style can result in some monumentally bad music, but let’s not dwell on those. Instead let’s talk about what could be my new favourite album of the year.
Many of you probably know Tame Impala from one song or another. Their brand of psychedelic revivalism was always entertaining to listen to and over their first two albums they wrote heaps of catchy, memorable hooks and riffs drenched in psychedelic euphoria. Things have changed on Currents, their third album, while they’re still the psychedelic band we all love, front-man Kevin Parker has traded in his guitars for synthesizers and tape loops. That’s not to say this album is devoid of any crazy guitar hooks or melodies, Parker is still a magician at creating unique interesting riffs that breeze and float throughout his cosmic soundscapes, but they are now coloured in with some gorgeous synth tracks. My favourite track on the album The Less I Know is a prime example of how Parker intertwines 80’s style synth funk with his retro psychedelic rock guitars.
One thing that has stayed the same across all three Impala albums is Parker’s deceptively deep writing skills, a lot of the songs on Innerspeaker and Lonerism were very shaded by emotional lyrics and imagery, although often hidden behind the layers of dense soundscapes. Currents continues that tradition although emotion is at the forefront now, on certain songs it is brutally clear is this is a breakup album Yes I’m Changing, Cause I’m a Man and Past Life make for some fairly stark listening inbetween the shimmering synthesizers. In fact Past Life is a prime example of this – although it sounds more like a Tom Waits spoken verse song (no bad thing) and I’m not keen on the vocal distortion – telling a simple narrative of seeing a previous lover across the street and the rush of emotions one feel, a situation I’m sure we’ve all experience in our lives at one point.
I’m sure there’ll be an outcry of people bitching about this new found sound. I’m not going to lie it did take me by surprise the first time I heard lead single Let it Happen, but it feels like a strangely logical place for Tame Impala to be now. The funky, trippy sound is still there of course, it’s just made on a keyboard instead of a guitar, but it’s very easy to get lost in the moment and embrace the beauty of it all. Just make sure you’re not doing anything when you’re listening to it, you’ll end up in space and forget where you were.