Review Summary: The soundtrack to a stoner's life.
Tame Impala and I have a long and unfortunate past full of silly assumptions and misunderstandings. On my first encounter with their self-titled EP way back in 2008 I simply dismissed them as another failed part of the psychedelic revival; and in all honesty, at that point in time I was probably correct. Song like “Half Glass Full of Wine” are wrought with simplistic songwriting and a dense production that seems so desperate to emulate the rock royalty that came decades before that it squandered what creativity and potential the young band did possess. I promptly disregarded Tame Impala until nearly a year and a half later, where I stumbled upon their set at two festivals not a month apart. Even over the noise of a thousand drunken Australians (and my own intoxicated rambling) I was able to recognise the sheer quality of the new material – this provided me with the incentive to purchase their debut full length when in dropped a couple of months later. Even though their shows had been indicative of the transformation they undertook over the last two years, nothing could have prepared me for the surprising level of maturity they show with Innerspeaker.
It’s still blindingly obvious from where Tame Impala’s hazy brand of psychedelic rock draws its influences. Traces of the Beatles, Hendrix, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd remain encompassed within the band’s sound, but instead of being the crux of each song they merely provide a starting point to build upon. “Bold Arrows of Time” is characterised by its juicy, Hendrix-inspired pentatonic riff and solo, but Kevin Parker’s dreamy singing watermarks the song as distinctly their own. Unlike older material his vocals have become a truly integral piece of the music; in the case of “Expectations” Parker provides an infectious melody in both the verses and choruses, cementing it as the catchiest number on the whole record. The first single “Solitude is Bliss” also benefits from a similarly melodic approach, opening with a jangly, phaser-induced riff that will – forgive the cliché – be stuck in your head for days on end.
But it's when they click on the distortion and dabble in effects that Tame Impala really hit their straps. The chunky chords during “Desire Be, Desire Go” are heavily saturated in a level of gain similar to that of Wavves, giving it a wonderfully stoned, garage feel. The song jams lazily though a chorus that accentuates Parker’s reverb-soaked vocals before moving into a purely psychedelic section and a sparse, trippy guitar solo that feels like a hit from a joint or two. The production on this song – and in fact the whole record – is consistently top notch; it’s always extremely organic and stays clean even during some of the most distorted moments. It’s also worth noting that the revolving mix here is sufficient enough to highlight the excellent bass grooves that can be found throughout the whole album, with “It’s Not Meant to Be” providing the perfect example.
The album's only true misstep lies squarely with the ambitious nature of “Runaway, Houses, City, Clouds”. The track stumbles on for an excruciating and arduous seven minutes, and although the band adorned it with several different types of effects and synth voicings in an attempt to keep it interesting it’s indisputably the weakest effort on the album. Yet despite this brief fumble, Innerspeaker remains the shining beacon of hope within the stale Australian rock scene; Tame Impala are casually grooving their way onto an international stage, and I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t foresee such success from those young, underexposed rockers I listened to all those years ago.
i think i started with listening to the more instantly accessible tracks and then started to appreciate the album as a whole with a little more time. "Desire Be, Desire Go", "Lucidity", "Solitude is Bliss" and "Expectations" all stood out straight away for me.
oh, and listening to this with a sub makes it so much better.
and i didn't mention this in review, but "I Don't Really Mind" is ridiculously similar to the Beatles.