Saturday 25 July 2015

Review of 'Currents' by Tame Impala

Aussie psychedelic rock band, Tame Impala, have traded in rugged guitars for shiny synths. The result is a sound somewhere between the Blade Runner soundtrack and those glossy eighties power ballads that I could always picture myself driving down a highway to at night if I could afford a car and hadn’t failed my test five times, but anyway we’re getting side-tracked.

Currents doesn't try to sound very current. It's synth textures sound like something Rick Wakeman might have played with. Digital effects bring it into the 21st Century – lashings of phasering and jarring looping like a scratched record as found on the epic opener, ‘Let it Happen’. Lead vocalist Kevin Parker meanwhile delivers high register singing over the top, swamped in spacey reverb and sighed out with an almost longing regret.

This vocal tone does lead some of the tracks to feel a bit samey, but Kevin Parker’s charming lyrics help to spice things up. ‘Cause I’m a Man’ is an ode to using one’s biology as an excuse for mistakes - a track that some silly folk are calling sexist (to which Kevin Parker has responded to in this interview). Others such as ‘Past Life’ take the otherwordly idea of meeting a lover from a past life.

Lyrically and sonically, the whole album seems to dwell dreamily and wishfully on the past. There’s an almost – dare I say it – ‘vaporwave’ aesthetic to the whole record. But unlike vaporwave, these are actual well-structured and original songs. The rock element is certainly gone, which may put some people off; most of these tracks are indisputably pop. However, there are still some progressive numbers here such as ‘Let it Happen’ that show Tame Impala haven’t gone all simple and dumbed-down.