Tame Impala, Currents [Track-by-Track Review]


Tame Impala, Currents © Interscope  

Tame Impala – aka Kevin Parker – takes us on a psychedelic, electro trip throughout Currents 

Tame Impala • Currents • Interscope • US Release Date: July 17, 2015

Australian alternative band, Tame Impala return with its third album, Currents. Highly anticipated, Tame Impala – aka Kevin Parker’s brainchild – was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album for 2012’s Lonerism. Following up a Grammy-nominated affair isn’t easy, so how does Currents stack up? Well, here’s a track-by-track take for your reading pleasure!

On opener “Let It Happen,” Kevin Parker’s vocals seem to float atop the production effortlessly. Throughout the first portion of the song, there’s a cool, yet propelling energy that eventually percolates into an intense middle section. Lengthy at shy of eight minutes, “Let It Happen” is epic and worth the duration. This sets the tone.

“Nangs” is the total opposite, lasting under two minutes. There is one simple, constantly reiterated lyric: “But is there something more than that?” The best way to describe the record is that it’s lush and druggy in sound. The druggy part seems no coincidence; “nangs” refers to cans of nitrous oxide, used as drugs for a hallucinogenic high. So is it the perfect soundtrack? – Definitely!

“The Moment” follows, speeding up the tempo. Despite the exuberance established by tempo, the mood isn’t jubilant, but rather introspective. Parker seems to questioning the value and worth of a lifetime, or at least a specific “moment” within life. This introspection is evidenced from the start: “In the end, it’s stronger than I know how to be / and I can’t just spend my whole lifetime wondering.”

“They say people never change, but that’s bullshit, they do.” Apparently, as Parker tells it on “Yes I’m Changing,” he’s growing and progressing as a person. While this is as reflective as “The Moment,” the difference is there’s (1) a relationship component, (2) a slower pace, and (3) a major key and indisputable exuberance by Parker. “There’s a world out there and it’s calling my name / and it’s calling yours, girl it’s calling yours too.”

“Eventually” depicts the end of a relationship – “If only there could be another way to do this / cause it feels like murder to put your heart through this.” Moderately slow and once more in a major key, Parker’s happiness seeming comes from acceptance this is what’s best for the both of them, not that he has no use or holds disdain. Ultimately, “Eventually” is another standout within Currents.

Following instrumental “Gossip,” “The Less I Know The Better” delivers a groove that would easily be at home on the dance floor in the 70s. “The Less I Know The Better” isn’t a dance cut, but it’s groovy, carefree, and feel good. The narrative is simple – guy sees his ex in all her beauty, sees she has a new guy (“Trevor”), and the emotions of the past come flooding back. This triggers “From A Past Life,” where Parker takes a step back, contrasting the forwardness of “Yes I’m Changing” or “Eventually.” Musically, what’s most interesting about the record is the heavy use of vocal effects, particularly pitch shift on the spoken word verses.

Interlude “Disciples” continues to relive the past, as does “ ‘Cause I’m A Man” where Parker is “Lost in the moment for the second time / each f**king doubt I make, unleash a cry.” Another slower, introspective record, Parker’s answers to his state of mind authentically, yet quite simplistically: he’s a man who makes mistakes, even if he possesses better judgment than he always shows.

“Reality In Motion” proves true to its title, as things seem to ‘come to a head’ following a push and pull throughout Currents between past and the future. Parker has trouble committing to a direction, which makes “Reality” scattered (positively): “Put your arms around me, I can sense you doubt me / you don’t need to promise / that only leads to heartache, closer to an earthquake…”

Penultimate song “Love/Paranoid” contrasts “Reality In Motion” pronouncedly in sound. It marks something of a conflicted new direction, as the paranoia referenced within the title is clearly expressed.   “And suddenly I’m the phony one / the only one with a problem,” Parker sings on the third verse, “True love is bringing it out of me / the worst in me, and I know now.” The title of closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” says it all – “Two sides of me can’t agree.” While Parker has “changed” for the better, he still admits his flaws, which are the same old pitfalls.

How does Tame Impala’s third album Currents fare? Probably depends on who you are. If you are a naïve newbie to the Australian band’s previous two albums, Currents will likely get a more favorable view. Being a newbie who wanted a slice of the Tame Impala pie, listening to Currents tickled my fancy. However, those who have long lost their Tame Impala virginity may not be crazy about the new direction. Likely, this album lies somewhere in the middle of two extremes.

Favorites: “Let It Happen,” “The Moment,” “Eventually,” “‘Cause I’m A Man,” “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”

★★★½

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