Review Summary: A slow and vastly detailed adventure.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to call Currents
one of the most important and seminal rock albums of the last ten years, but then, Tame Impala’s influence as a whole has been wildly acknowledged and applauded ever since their inception way back in 2008. Kevin Parker’s penchant for washy, colourful psychedelic soundscapes and distinctly retro
production choices – which hearken back to the root of 60’s psychedelic rock – have played a large part in making Tame Impala the household name they are today. Of course, it’s plain to see that rock music has always been a veneer of sorts, to hide Kevin’s other musical passion: pop music. As such, Currents
was a gradual and organic culmination of everything Kevin had strived towards, fully realised with a beautifully crisp and dynamic production that backed up the band’s heritage, but also nurtured the cordial championing of razor-sharp hooks and sugary pop melodies. The rest is history – and ever since Currents
, Kevin Parker has become a much sought-after collaborator and producer, working with the likes of Rhianna, Lady Gaga and Kanye West. But for many of us, myself included, people have been clamouring for that new Tame Impala album, patiently waiting to see where Parker takes the next step in his band’s prestigious career.
So yeah, that is the question isn’t it? Where does Kevin and company – the ostensible saviours of rock ‘n’ roll – take their sound after Currents
? Anyone with a modicum of awareness should have seen it coming, of course. Currents
was the harmonious bridge between psychedelic rock and electronic pop, so naturally the way forward is to make The Slow Rush
double down on the latter portion of their current sound. Tame’s retrofitted electronic and pop influences are now the meat and potato here, and for some people yearning for those crunchy, trippy riffs, prepare to be a little disappointed going forward. The Slow Rush
is a subtle synth-pop peregrination with a number of styles that range from R&B and soul to house and hip-hop; even though the album lends ideas, as well as the incredibly versatile production, from Currents
, the rewards are far less immediate. It has the same kind of low-key presentation Arctic Monkeys’ contentious Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino
had; a lack of clinching moments, overt and infectious hooks, or attention-grabbing musicality. In fact, on the first few listens, bar the precipitation of the last quarter of the LP, which heeds the whims of instant gratification, the whole experience feels long-winded and homogenized. The compositional consensus here seems to set up simple hip-hop-styled loops under a myriad of electronic styles, which is fine, but quite a few of these electronics function as background ambiences than as main attractions.
I know what you’re thinking, because I’d have thought the same thing: surely, if Parker is heading down this nuanced path of tranquil soundscape forging, his vocals will have stepped up their game in some capacity? You would think so, wouldn’t you? And it’s not that his vocal performances here are bad, not at all, it’s just that they appear to be the only part of this sonic shift that are static and unwilling to adapt to the rest of the musical ambition here. In spite of the fact that Tame Impala is running with a dominant electronic and pop-heavy template, the pop detail ironically lacks its usual definition for the most part. Reverb-soaked croons are the typical order of the day, but there’s nothing particularly memorable, or new, about them. Sure, there’s catharsis to be found on the lamenting highs and melodic structuring of songs like “Instant Destiny” or “Lost in Yesterday”, but there’s just something soporific about how he handles “Posthumous Forgiveness” which lacks real staying power. And maybe that’s the point – the whole aesthetic and theme centres around lethargy and time, so it could well be an artistic choice. But in either case, for a record running at nearly an hour, it’s definitely the weakest aspect of The Slow Rush
’s ambitious expression.
With all that being said, I’m not trying to dump on The Slow Rush
. As I briefly hinted at before, for all of Parker’s notorious perfectionism and the amount of time he’ll have put into this LP, the listener is seemingly required to put in the same amount of time to experience all it has to offer. As is to be expected at this point, the production is incredible; a densely packed world lays before you, where you’ll uncover a number of new facets and elements every time you go back to it – morphing your outlook with every listen. If it takes another five years to see a new Tame Impala album, it’s okay, because you’ll still be uncovering new things with The Slow Rush
in that time. Musically, it’s a somnolent, relaxing adventure that effortlessly integrates styles with its authoritative arsenal of synths and piano. The journey is well worth going through again and again, as you venture through a labyrinth of subtle moods. The trickling, house-inspired electronic underlays, crisp rattling hi-hats and lyrical musings of “One More Year” are set to bolster their live set to legendary degrees, while the furious disco banger “Is It True” stands as the apex to The Slow Rush
’s sound. It’s a Daft Punk homage – a bustling and punchy rhythmic loop with progressive electronic building blocks that scream with effectiveness by the time the chorus hits. For those aching to get a fix on Currents
’ sensibilities, the likes of “Instant Destiny” and “Lost in Yesterday” should feed that hunger to some degree.
The thing is, I don’t think Kevin Parker could have thought of a better name for The Slow Rush
, because it’s the best way to sum up this ethereal and sluggish album. It’s not the type of record you can just hear a few times and have a definitive opinion on it; furthermore, you have to set time aside and listen to it in full to get the desired effect. It’ll take a long time to fully digest all this thing has to offer, and I commend such an impeccably produced and intricately woven project like this, considering what it’s aiming at. But with all that being said, the somewhat off vocal work from Parker and the occasionally stretched run-time to songs (I’m looking at you “Posthumous Forgiveness”) makes it an inferior product to its predecessors. I also don’t think the ‘guitars out, synths in’ approach to The Slow Rush
will have a detrimental turn on Tame Impala’s older fanbase, but I do feel they would have benefited the songs and broken up some of the monotony, had they been included more. At the end of the day, Parker proves good songwriting can hold the basis of a band’s sound, and despite the lack of guitar here, The Slow Rush
does just that. It’s not as pristine as previous entries, but it certainly holds up Tame Impala’s incredible reputation.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://official.tameimpala.com/