Review: Tame Impala – Lonerism
Published on October 12th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
It’s finally here, Tame Impala’s second album is finally here! Okay, it’s not been long since Kevin Parker’s 2010 debut Innerspeaker, but such monumentally fuzzy bliss that was that Rocksucker has been slavering to hear whether they/he* could repeat the trick. They/he* resoundingly have.
(* It’s hard not to think of Tame Impala as a band, as Rocksucker did until having the pleasure of getting to speak to Parker last year; although they are most certainly a they when they play live, and Tame Impala is ace in that capacity too.)
Parker’s appearance on The Flaming Lips’ recent Heady Fwends collaborations album appears straight from the off to have rubbed off on him, albeit the Dave Fridmann connection was already there. Rhythmic, steam engine-like whispering of “gotta be above it” fuels an unflinching propulsion of pounding drums as Steven Drozd-ily ambient keys flutter and shimmer in punctuation of the sparseness; it could be straight off one of the Lips’s EPs of last year, at least if you substituted out the floaty, detached Wayne Coyne vocal for the floaty, detached Parker vocal.
“And I know that I gotta be above it now / And I know that I can’t let them bring me down / And I gotta fight my time as a face in the crowd” sets the tone for an LP’s worth of surprisingly downbeat lyrics – well, not so surprisingly when you factor in the title Lonerism and that, for all its hypnotic aloofness, Innerspeaker opening gambit “It’s Not Meant to Be” is at its core a snapshot of unrequited love – but those steadily pounding drums erupt with wonder on the ensuing “Endors Toi”, the keys doing likewise.
Even though the guitars are not yet present there is still that endlessly satisfying and ever-present slight Tame Impala dissonance, the one which results from Kevin Parker’s otherwordly musicianship meeting his own stoned, ‘airy Lennon’ vocal head on. It ends with a beaming, barmy “I’m back, baby!” guitar solo and makes way for “Apocalypse Dream”, which is so incredible and tangential that it’s easy to overlook that a fair chunk of it is underpinned by the beat from “I Am the Resurrection”. So epic it is, in fact, that its six-minute running time strikes as a surprisingly short one.
“Mind Mischief” is like recent-vintage of Montreal spread onto Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles like sunshine jam spread onto an acid-soaked bun, the melodic singularity of lead and bass in its chorus lending such a sublime stomp to the light, reverb-drenched harmonies. It’s psychedelic pop music from a high plane, or even “Music to Walk Home By” as the ensuing number is titled; mind you, Tame Impala makes for equally effective walking away from home music, or going to work music, going bleedin’ anywhere music as long as it’s given free rein to occupy your headspace and make your balls trip in a way that’s channelling a…
*sharp intake of breath*
…normality of sorts that keeps it rocking enough to be suitable ‘out and about’ accompaniment, because let’s face it, if you’re sitting on the bus listening to Merzbow then you’re probably a bit mental. It carries a bold otherworldliness about it, or ‘innerworldliness’ when you consider (as Rocksucker may be alone in doing) that Tame Impala feels more like the product of aliens trying to sound like Earthlings than vice versa. Yes, ‘innerworldly’…
…and thusly we are brought back to Innerspeaker. “Eureka!”, and all that. So, right, “Music to Walk Home By”: that dizzying, fuzzy Tame Impala lead guitar sound weaves pure musical magic, a fine currency indeed, and even though the synths, beaming, are the sole addition to Tame Impala’s palette (Tame Impalette?), the respective dream weaved by each song is particular and expansive enough to still make it sound like a bold leap forward. Oh, and dig that big glam guitar riff at the end.
It’s at this point Rocksucker realises a slight similarity between Tame Impala and The Sea and Cake. This is a great compliment to both. Listen to Tame Impala during the day and The Sea and Cake at night, and report back to us with your findings, please.
Okay, it was wrong to say that the synths are the only new dimension; “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” makes it abundantly clear that Parker’s exuberant, confident harmonies are every bit as significant a new distinction. This one features the hitherto Tame Impala rarity of a strummed acoustic guitar (albeit low in the mix) subtly dictating the glow surrounding it, while the overall misnomer of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” sounds as if Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips tried to write an early-’60s pop song together and got it gloriously wrong
A word at this point for the ever-probing bass, such a key component of Tame Impala ever since it dictated proceedings from the off on “It’s Not Meant to Be”, which as opening statements go is starting to acquire a kind of “I Saw Her Standing There” authority about it. “Keep on Lying” is lightly freaked-out ’60s psych-pop that takes on an orbit of unintelligibly inseparable speaking voices, before another beaming Tame Impala (TM) fuzz lead is wrapped around it like purest sunshine-on-outer-space licorice. Such dazzlilng sonic weapons this Perther wields.
How on earth is “Elephant” the single? It’s the maddest song thus far, and by some distance. How delightfully refreshing is that? It’s an insane stomp, like Frank Zappa and Black Sabbath totally bastarding up “Spirit in the Sky”. Was this really used on an advert for Made in Chelsea recently? If so then we can only hope that this was as a mass brainwashing tactic, because given sufficient exposure it might just work you know.
Seriously, this is the single…
How ace is that? We are then treated to “She Just Won’t Believe Me”, less than a minute’s worth of synthy Pet Sounds-ing, and then the simply stunning “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control”, in which staggeringly punctuated stabs of vocal play with a rumbling approach of sunshine, like Steven Drozd and Kevin Barnes dreaming about The Kinks’ “Big Sky” in one of those dreams where it’s a different song but in the dream you think it’s “Big Sky”, or whatever song you may happen to be dreaming about.
“Sun’s Coming Up (Lambingtons)” is dealt with in an unfamiliar relative-baritone and, ye gads, trotting piano chords! (Swamped in reverb as usual, mind.) This then becomes, in the words of a Rocksucker cohort present during note-taking, “some Woodstock hippie-fest”; this writer sees his point, but it sounds more from the perspective of someone at Woodstock having a massively inwards trip in which the whole festival melts away around him, its presence only hinted at by what sounds like muted horse-trotting low in the mix. Then, then, it sounds as if someone approaches our tripping punter and sprays him with something that brings him back to normality, and the listener out and away from the Being John Malkovich-style occupation of his blown mind…
…and Rocksucker’s iTunes runs straight into “Desire Be Desire Go” from the Tame Impala EP, bringing us indeed back to…well, familiarity. It’s like the credits rolling up, the perfect cap on the psychedelic adventure we’ve just been beamed through, and while it’s too early to compare Lonerism favourably or unfavourably to Innerspeaker (heck, there’s no need to, but seeing as we’re grading and all…), the new few months may well open up the cage door for that almost arbitrarily withheld half-quail to fly out of. Utterly superb stuff, and we’re only a few listens in.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Lonerism is out now on Modular. For more information, please visit www.tameimpala.com