Tame Impala expands its sound on “The Slow Rush”

Kevin Parker playing live, courtesy of Andy Witchger, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tame Impala is arguably one of the most influential bands of the 2010s. The Australian auteur Kevin Parker has released four commercial albums in the last decade, with each record making more of a critical splash.  If you have been around in the pop/indie rock scene for any period in the last ten years, you have heard of Tame Impala. Without this band and artists like Mac DeMarco, indie rock would not have shifted from pre-pubescent garage rock to a more sophisticated take on psychedelia. Tame Impala’s music is exciting because in each record you can see how exactly Kevin Parker is growing as a musician. He has progressed from a basic psychedelic rock sound to a complicated synthpop fusion with indie rock. Each album that he releases plays with new ideas that can be alienating to some listeners. Still, the variety in his discography only shows how much of a force Kevin Parker is to reckon with.

On his new album, “The Slow Rush,” Parker confronts the changes that have permeated his life, and the death of his father. The album is littered with references to time and the meaning of life. His prog-rock influences are right on its sleeve, with its soaring synthesizers and beating drum machines taking center stage, while leaving passionate guitar riffs relegated to background texture. Each song has at least seven layers of instrumentation on it, which helps immerse the listener in the album and really helps convey the message that Parker was going for.

Unfortunately, the album has less staying power than “Currents.” There is no track on this album like “The Less I Know the Better”or“MindMischief” that absolutely stands out and gets sucked into the mainstream. There is no one defining track on this album that really sticks out as a hit. This is due to the synthetic sound of this album blending and the lack of sound variety between each track. But that’s not to say that there are no fantastic tracks on this album.

“One More Year” is a perfect opener. It really gets you into Parker’s head and makes you feel what he’s been going through.  It’s a very somber and reflective track, but it fills you with the feeling that the light hasn’t gone out yet.

The third track on the album, “Borderline,” is fantastic. According to Parker, most of the lyrics on this song come from a stream of consciousness that isn’t common in his work.  It’s got a funky synthesizer beat and a simple rhyming scheme that sucks you in. It is impossible to resist tapping your toe while listening to this track.

The track “Lost in Yesterday” is about nostalgia and regret, how those emotions can consume you, and how nostalgia can become an addiction. The lyrics bat around heavy ideas about memory and nostalgia while an upbeat synth melody plays underneath. It features an awesome guitar riff that serves as a fantastic through-line for the song.

This album is exceptionally cohesive, which I feel is detrimental to the album itself. Without much variety, it makes a lot of the tracks blend into a semi-interesting symphony of groovy synths. But that’s not to say that it is not worth checking out. There is a lot of excellent ideas and songs that genuinely stick with you. But for a record that is 12 tracks and 57 minutes long, some of it could have been left out for B-sides.  I feel like the expectation for a Tame Impala album has been set extremely high, and this album falls a little short.  However, the direction that Tame Impala is heading in is extremely interesting. I cannot wait to see what he is going to do next.