Tame Impala ‘Lonerism’

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#822 in the Series) is Tame Impala,  Lonerism

There’s a tendency to label bands like Tame Impala – meaning those influenced by the  1966-1971-ish golden period of psychedelic rock – as imitators, mimics, copycats, or even revivalists, but to do that is to do the quintet a grave disservice. The Western Australian band have united fans of contemporary psychedelic rock in rapturous appreciation since their excellent debut album, Innerspeaker, in 2010, and even before that in Australian music circles with their first EP, Antares, Mira, Sun, in 2008. With Innerspeaker, they showed that there is so much more to their sound than fuzz pedals and vocal effects, and with new album Lonerism, have gone several steps further in showing what an original and accomplished act they are.

Tame Impala is, basically, the brainchild and musical project of Perth’s Kevin Parker: song-writer, vocalist, front-man, multi-instrumentalist, producer; pretty much Tame Impala’s version of Plant and Page rolled into a single creative force. But that’s not to say the creative spark comes easily to him. In a recent interview he described recording Lonerism as “crucifying,” and that there were times recording the album when he thought it was “the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Whether that’s a sign of tortured genius or delusional paranoia; it’s up to you to decide, but the quality of the results on show here is practically indisputable; Lonerism is a fine album of layered psych-rock propulsion, artificial yet artful layers of blissfully-immersive fuzz, warped instrumental noises intertwining and veering towards the edge of all acceptable boundaries, and lyrics lavished with – you guessed it – the themes of loneliness and despair the album title suggests. It’s quite the trip.

While many ‘popular’ bands opt to open their album with their most marketable piece of product, Tame Impala do the exact opposite with “Be Above It.” It’s a robotic, mesmeric piece of space-rock that is straight out of a Kubrick movie and instantly catapults the listener into the deep end of Parker’s interplanetary time-warp of a mind, without so much as the chance to catch a breath or even pack some sandwiches for the journey. “Endors Toi” follows, which is quite Innerspeaker-esque with its heavily contorted drum rolls and rolling bass line, before one of the best songs on the album, “Apocalypse Dreamspops up, drenching us in a wild mix of rich piano sounds, pounding drums, and falsetto vocals; all put through the psychedelic ringer and spewed out in a floaty haze of classic pop and sci-fi; shaken, but most definitely pulsating with life.

For me, there is something unmistakably oh-so very français about Tame Impala, and it’s not just the fact the band has a French drummer in Julien Barbagallo. Certain verses, effects, and moods on show in Lonerism remind me of the landmark 1997 electronic album Moon Safari by French band Air, crossed with T-Rex at their rockiest, and the Beatles at their most experimental; but of course there’s so much more to uncover.

Single “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is set to be a live staple of the band’s for years to come; its slow groove and sing-along chorus is instantly catchy (like a lot of the album), and contrasts nicely to some of the heavier moments. It sounds like the perfect track to listen to in the height of summer, lying out on the grass with a six pack and no intention of going to work the next day. “Elephant,” on the other hand, sees Parker turning everything up to eleven and letting rip with a blast of organ-and-drums-driven rock; it’s just made to make audiences bounce (and bounce they do,) and is, again, catchy as anything. It’s also clear at this point that the layers of effects and distortion aren’t hiding musical ineptitude of any kind, and that all members of the band have musical abilities coming out of their ears (having recently seen each of them solo live reinforced this point to me.)

The Kubrick feel returns on “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control,” and the particularly Lennon-esque closer “Sun’s Coming Up” ends Lonerism on a piano-and-vocals note of melancholy and introspection, before unleashing a blast of cosmic warps and twangs that could well be the soundtrack to a movie called Opium Dens in Space circa 1956, or something like that. Or perhaps not…

It’s great to see Tame Impala come on in leaps and bounds from their debut album to their second effort, and what a pleasure it is to see their sound evolve into the powerhouse of psychedelia it is today. Check ’em out, and let’s see where they go next.

– Paul McBride, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Kevin Parker, except “Apocalypse Dreams” and “Elephant”, written by Kevin Parker and Jay Watson.

  1. “Be Above It” 3:21
  2. “Endors Toi” 3:06
  3. “Apocalypse Dreams” 5:56
  4. “Mind Mischief” 4:31
  5. “Music to Walk Home By” 5:12
  6. “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” 4:46
  7. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” 3:12
  8. “Keep on Lying” 5:54
  9. “Elephant” 3:31
  10. “She Just Won’t Believe Me” 0:57
  11. “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” 6:01
  12. “Sun’s Coming Up” 5:20

Personnel

  • Kevin Parker – vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keys
  • Jay Watson – drums, keys, guitar
  • Dominic Simper – percussion, bass, guitar, effects

Posted by Larry Carta

1 Comment

  1. Kkckk (21 Jun 2013, 8:59)
    Reply

    Why have i not heard of these guys untill now!
    was hooked @ be above it.
    Lp purchased…..



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