Tame Impala – Currents
Australia has been known internationally for a few things concerning rock music: AC/DC (who’s been in the news lately for non-music related issues), Wolfmother, John Butler Trio, etc. And then there’s Tame Impala, the international quintet indie breakout headed by guitarist and lead singer Kevin Parker.
Their 2012 breakout sophomore record Lonerism rocket shot the group into international acclaim, piggy backing on a Gen X Beatles and 60s nostalgia that’s been percolating in the last decade, with American groups like MGMT, the Flaming Lips, and the Elephant 6 Collective – particularly the Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System. These groups lay the groundwork for Tame Impala’s modern pop psych sound on Lonerism. However, with their third, highly anticipated album Currents, the band takes their sound in a more expansive, synthesized direction with mixed results.
The first noticeable difference between Currents and their previous work is the prevalent use of synthesizer. The reorientation in instrumental aesthetic has a vast effect on the album. For one – it displaces most of the Beatles nostalgia, and what remain are the hazy effects on phased guitars and Parker’s echo leaden falsetto voice, and instead, Currents taps into the 80s R&B of Prince, Hall and Oates, and Lionel Richie, much like contemporary dream pop groups like Twin Shadow, Terror-era Flaming Lips, or latter day Deerhunter.
However, the closest comparison is the latest installment from My Morning Jacket, whose latest album Waterfall shifted the band from being a rootsy, jammy rock band, to a dreamy R&B influenced rock crossover.
The Terror, Waterfall, and Currents profit and suffer from the same salient feature – focus. These albums seem cut from the same sound and the songs run together as one long idea.
Current’s disco-tinged opening track “Let it Happen” runs into “Nangs” and “The Moment” with differing hooks – “The Moment” perhaps being the catchiest falsetto chorus on the record. However, the song dynamic barely changes, keeping within the mid-tempo groove and similar sounding arrangements. “Yes I’m Changing” slows things down even more, with Hall and Oates immediately coming to mind, and it’s one of the strongest tracks on the record.
“Eventually” is when the album starts to sound a bit “same-y.” “The Less I Know the Better” reprises the Hall and Oates influence with lyrics like “Someone said they left together / I ran out the door to get her / She was holding hands with Trevor / Not the greatest feeling ever” sort of sounding like something Daryl Hall would sing. Tame Impala tries an ill-advised vocal experiment in playing with multiple narrative voices on the track “Past Life.” The lyrical content gets lost in the experiment, and the track is flat-out boring.
“‘Cause I’m a Man” ups the level of Lionel Richie cheesiness, with lines like “Cause I’m a man, woman / Don’t always think before I do / Cause I’m a man, woman / That’s the only answer I’ve got for you.” It’s definitely the album’s most self aware and tongue and cheek arrangement.
Currents has its moments, mostly on the first half of the album, but even those good moments feel like the better slices of a bland pizza. The last three songs, “Reality in Motion,” “Love/Paranoia,” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” seem like a rehash of earlier songs and influences. The last song “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” – particularly the drums – are reminiscent of The Terror, and Parker’s falsetto on the chorus seems like a tired formula, running together with all the other songs. I don’t think that the songs are particularly bad, I just wish that they had more variation, and more, well, rock.
At least you can always listen to Tame Impala’s offshoot band Pond if you want something a little more rocking.
2.5 / 5