Having made two of the finest albums to be released in the last decade in 'Innerspeaker' and 'Lonerism', Tame Impala are threatening to turn themselves into a pastiche of pretty much what everybody else is doing -- if early teasers from this album are to be believed. Synths have replaced guitars and production values are at times influenced solely by 'Bouncing Off the Satellites' era the B52s. Still, everyone likes the '80's so this could be the future-retro pop album that propels Kevin Parker to superstardom whilst fans of his earlier Beatlesey psych moves weep into their kaftans. Waiting for the whole thing before passing judgement could be a good option at this stage. Certainly whatever emerges will be mighty tuneful.
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The main positive to come out of listening to this album is that I now finally believe that Kevin Parker is a human. His two previous albums as Tame Impala were incredibly produced psych opuses that referenced '60s pop/psych yet introduced modern day production touches that were light-years ahead of anyone else in the field. Not to get too bogged down in technicalities but for example listen to the vocal effects on ‘Innerspeaker’; Parker is continually toying with them, treating them with reverb, distortion and other such effects, at times word by word. This kind of attention to detail leads to a record that you just have to keep listening to, as every time you put the needle on the record you hear something new. ‘Lonerism’ was basically more of the same, a follow up so good that it basically just sounded like a continuation of the previous record. Parker has since toured the world and received all kind of plaudits and boy does it show. In the name of moving on he has dropped the ball completely.
We know that Parker is better than this. The last 45 seconds of opener ‘Let it Happen' prove that he still has a lovely ability to tease dreamy melodies out of nowhere but the rest of the track, despite a highly usable riff feels totally undercooked and is increasingly annoying the more you listen to it. The brief interlude of ‘Nangs‘ is pleasant enough, highlighted by a couple of Boards of Canada wobbles. ‘The Moment‘ is a lovely tune, terribly produced. Thing is, Parker can still make these lovely tunes, but when the production reminds you only of mid '80s Madonna B-sides, it’s hard to enjoy the melodies within. And he undersells choruses completely -- something that may not matter within swirling psych opuses but in the clipped, economical world of R & B lite it matters greatly. There’s a late attempt to inject the track with Beach Boys melodies but I’m already bored by that point. The haunting ‘Yes I’m Changing’ has the synth sounds from The Cars ‘Drive’ and is a terminally plodding ballad of nothingness. ‘Eventually’ at least has a few ballsy guitars until the synths once again win the fight but where is the wild sonic exploration and earworms that kept all his previous work so fresh? There are signs throughout of the good record this could have been. 'The Less I Know the Better' could be the sort of track Parker made after his Bee Gees inspired lightbulb moment but lacks the killer chorus that those lads would have ensured was catchy enough to make up for any cheesiness.
None of this is to say that ‘Currents’ won’t be a major success. It’s melodies are blindingly obvious, and it has hipster-friendly crap ‘80' music credentials, but for anyone who enjoyed ‘Lonerism’ and ‘Innerspeaker’ precisely because they sounded like nothing else around, it’s a terrible shock to hear such a lazily made record that sounds just like everybody else -- and at times is genuinely excruciatingly bad.
Reviews so far have been ‘mixed’ to say the least but I’d bet my house that his next album will be dubbed a 'return to form’.
4/10 Pete 23rd July 2015
I don't normally give albums bad reviews but really, this is poor. It's not that it is a complete change of direction from Tame Impala, more that it is just so middle of the road bland. There appears to be no direction or indeed heart to the record and although a couple of the tracks might be considered "catchy" it does sound suspiciously like a vanity project to me, too many 'shrooms perhaps? Anyway, too often it just sounds like a poor copy of Django Django (now there is a good album). Others may think it a masterpiece, but not me i am afraid.
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