Tame Impala – Currents

It’s a restless mind that drives Kevin Parker, artistic centrifuge of Australian band Tame Impala. That’s ‘band’ in a loose sense. Parker takes charge of every aspect of the operation; writing, instrumentation, producing, and now mixing, having picked up a technique or two from long-time Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann on Tame Impala’s previous two records.

On ‘Innerspeaker’ and ‘Lonerism’ Parker’s inventive psychedelic workouts had a bit of muscle – a bit of cosmic heft that put a modern spin on an old genre, underpinned with his ability to propel a song into the stratosphere with something as simple as an idiosyncratic drum fill. On third album, ‘Currents’, things are less space-y, more four-on-the-floor; tethered to the dancefloor, even if there’s still scope for out-there experimentation.

Certain of the tracks give ‘Currents’ the feeling of a post break-up unburdening, but if this is the case then Parker’s catharsis is a more euphoric beast than most people’s. Opener Let It Happen kicks open the disco doors, setting out Parker’s intentions over eight minutes of synth-laden transmutations. The beats trip and stutter, the music becoming muted as Parker’s voice floats to the fore, suspended in the hybrid of psychedelia and glitterball gloss.

‘Currents’ seems introspective, not really a surprise considering the titles of previous Tame Impala records, but even though Parker’s emotional state remains inscrutable – guarded even – through the album, the vocals are pushed that bit more to the front than before. “I know that I’ll be happier/And I know you will too/ Eventually” he sings, cushioning the blow of an imminent dumping. Yes I’m Changing is more confrontational (“They say people never change, but that’s bullshit, they do”) even if the tempo is slowed, referencing a relationship’s end, or indeed challenging those who may question Parker’s new directional shift.

The irresistible funk disco of The Less I Know The Better is enough to draw the mind from the questionable couplet of “She was holding hands with Trevor/ Not the greatest feeling ever, a lyric more in the Jilted John oeuvre than Parker maybe intended. A poppy Disciples is reminiscent of The Magnetic Fields’ brand of high-register, synth pop playfulness, while Past Life takes that very airiness and offsets it with a heavily-treated vocal. Parker’s dehumanised spoken intro quotes the mundane (“Thursday, 12:30/ I’ve got a pretty solid routine these days”) giving way to phased, bittersweet reminiscences of a previous lover.

Despite all its modern sheen, ‘Currents’ has a retro feel – ‘70s disco and FM easy-listening – and every so often Parker will manufacture something to hint at those listening experiences that, for the most part (and certainly for listeners of a certain age) you just don’t encounter anymore; the garbled deceleration of a chewed cassette tape, a needle stuck in the grooves, or a skipping CD. These additions may nod to a period when the physical format was king in all its flawed glory, but just as previous Tame Impala records put a modern slant on a well-worn trope, so too does ‘Currents’. Despite lapses into the listlessness of ‘Cause Im A Man or Yes I’m Changing Parker has created an album for the club, and the most telling line of ‘Currents’ comes during The Moment as he sings “I fell in love with the sound of my heels on the wooden floor”. It’s Parker’s inimitable disco reboot – his paean to the dancefloor.

Justin McDaid   @Justysir

 

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