“They say people never change, but that’s bullshit; they do.” So sings Kevin Parker in the chorus of ‘Yes I’m Changing’ on the new Tame Impala album, Currents. The record is an exercise in proving this point; as well as showcasing the benefits of change.
Tame Impala burst onto the scene a few years back in a haze of psych-rock, but this new release tones down the guitars in favour of synths, while the act’s trademark psychedelia takes a sharp turn towards disco.
The change might have been more of a shock, but through previewing a number of singles prior to the album release, we have been prepared for the new direction.
One thing that’s also clear is Parker’s increasing concern with the art of production. Once upon a time you made rock music by forming a band and jamming with them. Now a new breed of rockers are adopting the modus operandi of electronica producers: crafting music in virtual solitude, where carefully executed soundscapes are as important as the songwriting itself. Comparisons can be draw here between Currents and Multi-Love, the excellent album released by Unknown Mortal Orchestra a few months ago.
The new Tame Impala material is best enjoyed through headphones, where the sonic creativity can be best appreciated. The vocals are heavy on reverb and pushed no higher than in the mix than the instruments; the lyrics are no more important the overall sound. Tame Impala create a musical landscape and invite listeners to give themselves over to it, rewarding those who accept.
Not everything works quite as it should, though. ‘Past Life’, for example, gets a little carried away with it’s own sonic cleverness. But we can easily excuse such flaws, with some really great moments on the record.
The opening track, ‘Let It Happen’, perfectly sets the album up with an infectious disco groove. ‘Eventually’ has some big musical hooks, while ‘The Less I Know the Better’ is the album stand out, the funky guitar riffs perfectly balanced with synth grooves. Meanwhile, the final track ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’, exemplifies the lazy disco groove at the heart of the record. This feels like the perfect late night album, best enjoyed with a few drinks under the belt.
This is one of the most anticipated releases of the year and, so long as you don’t come expecting a rehash of the previous Tame Impala material, the album certainly won’t disappoint.
Currents is released today from Universal.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor