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Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

12 Mar

Nearly five years after mainstream-breaking Currents (2015), Australian psychedelic rock act Tame Impala is back with a new album. With a fuller ethos and nods to a wider palette, The Slow Rush finds Kevin Parker, the one-man driving force behind the act, at his most accessible – and the jury is out on whether that’s necessarily a good thing.

Comparisons to Currents are of course expected. That album was packed to the brim with endlessly-playable mega-hits, interspersed with wisps of ethereal fillers (see: “Gossip”, “Nangs“). It had instant classics like “The Less I Know the Better” and “Let It Happen” that redefined what a mainstream psychedelic rock song could sound like, taking back the mantle from the likes of Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd. You knew Currents was a magical ride from the first song – no matter how many times you heard it all the way through.

On The Slow Rush, there are definitely a few such stand-out moments. One of our first tastes of the album was “Borderline”, released almost a year ago to high praise. The song see-saws constantly between cautious synth-rock verses and a feverish chorus, as do the lyrics – “We’re on the borderline / Caught between the tides of pain and rapture,” he says. Accentuated by Parker’s signature Doppler-effect fades, the result is almost a Moebius strip of sound – happy, sad, pained, rapturous all at once – coiled inside one “loner in L.A.”. And even better than “Borderline” is “Breathe Deeper”, a dreamy gem hidden halfway into the album. We’ve already lauded this song, but it honestly deserves all that and more – an intoxicating mix of R&B, house and cool indie pop filtered through the distorted mess of Kevin Parker’s mind.

Beyond these two tracks, though, the roster varies quite a bit. There are tunes like “Instant Destiny”, where Parker comes across, well, boring. “This traffic doesn’t seem quite as annoying / quite alright, quite alright, sittin’ here,” he intones, on what’s essentially a fuzzed-out pop song about L.A.’s I-405. “Tomorrow’s Dust” sounds like he dialed it in with a generic falsetto over a borrowed Vampire Weekend guitar layer. “It Might Be Time” has some neat drums on the eponymous sections, but largely sounds like it could be filler music on an 80s-themed sci-fi show (we’re thinking Stranger Things?).

So what changed? Domestic bliss, we surmise. In the inter-album five-year-stretch, Parker has gotten married; with that change, he seems to have welcomed some much-needed contentment with life. Unfortunately, his music is best when the tension between his anxiety and genius is at near-snap tautness – and some of that has perhaps slackened with the arrival of Mrs. Kevin Parker.

The Slow Rush finds Parker at a personal best but a professional middle. He’s figured out some of the bigger pieces in his core psychological struggles, and the end-product is, with some exceptions, somewhat staid (for Tame Impala). And it doesn’t help that this comes after Currents, one of the best albums this side of 2000. All in all, give The Slow Rush a whirl – but this one’s probably for the fans.

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