Review Summary: Tame Impala help the internet generation learn to trip out.
Psychedelic music never seems to leave us alone. But maybe that’s just because we love it so much. “Neo”-Psychedelia is the critically ascribed term for anything that reportedly takes its cues from 1967. Perhaps this is erroneous. Instead, lets think of psychedelic music as an ever evolving entity; one that has never faded from existence, warranting a revival and a predicate “Neo”-. It represents a kind of songcraft particularly preoccupied on the mind-boggling power of good production to create the impression of an altered (or totally alien) state of mind. This is what, in principle, unites the otherwise distinct music of Sgt. Pepper, Echo & The Bunnymen, early 70’s Pink Floyd, the Flaming Lips, and shoegaze under a single banner. It’s obsessive music, and its been known to consume the minds of those who make it. So who can we call upon the carry the banner of drugged-out perfectionism through the slew of sloth and short attention spans?
Enter Tame Impala, the pet project of apparent Australian prodigy Kevin Parker. Their most recent release, “Lonerism”, represents Psychedelic music as it stands, 2012 A.D. De-tuned synths, uber-fuzzed-out guitars, extensive filtering, arpeggiators, and even the occasional dance-beat get all mixed up together to form the increasingly complex kaleidoscope of psych. Now, any good kaleidoscope needs a willing hand to turn it. Lucky for us, Parker is an astoundingly talented fellow. The guitar work is splendid, jangling but noisy, the drums interesting at every turn, and the bass work (while clearly the product of a guitarist’s hands) consistently flirts with spell-binding. Oh and remember, it’s all him. Jeesh.
We know our hero is awfully happy. This album is chock-full of feel-goodies, heralded by the all-smiles opener, “Be Above It.” The brakes are rarely applied. Everything moves at a fairly steady clip, even if it occasionally carries on for a bit too long. There’s an effective balance reached between the well-arranged and the out of control. When things do get on the lengthy side, we can see clearly and feel Parker’s obsession with catharsis. Building, building, pause, BOOM! And repeat. This formulaic approach can be risky, but for the most part really works, giving the album almost a clubby feel.
Unfortunately, meticulous overproduction muddles the effect of some of the best tracks, most notably on the centerpiece “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” You’ll get that song in your head without a doubt, but you’ll be subconsciously removing the literal tidal waves of reverb and delay. “Elephant” is the song that most feels like a tribute to the past, kind of like an odd-tempo’d, semi-Cream jam, and, unsurprisingly, it ends up being the least satisfying. That being said, there are a good number of grade A rock songs (masquerading as pop), enough to make this album a 2012 necessity.
Rather than a realization of glory, “Lonerism” shrieks of incredible potential. We don’t have a new Psychedelic classic quite yet, but I can see one on the horizon.