Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tame Impala - Currents review

I'm gonna put my hands up straight away and admit that I really wasn't all that into Tame Impala at first. To me, they were just another white, dull and boring indie band that made music for that exact demographic (probably why no one I know has heard of them, then). For quite some time I categorized them with the likes of DIIV, The War On Drugs and Kurt Vile (I could go on and on) and never really felt compelled by the immense hype surrounding these acts by the likes of Pitchfork. Though I still profess that they are a dull indie band who I would most likely dislike on a personal level, I did really like Lonerism (dammit!). This was largely down to the strong psychedelic production drowning out Kevin Parker's dreary vocals and making their whole aesthetic a lot more interesting as a result (see "Elephant", their breakout track). I was pleasantly surprised when the band dropped "Let It Happen", one of my favorite tracks of 2015, a few months ago and thus made me interested to see how the new record would sound. With Currents, they have come through with a more synth-heavy sound which largely serves them well.

The record begins strongly with Let It Happen, an epic labyrinth of psychedelia which is as compliant with old school disco as it is surf rock, making it one of the band's more experimental moments. This sets the tone for Currents rather well (especially as minimal guitar use is a theme throughout the record) and as a result many of the album highlights are synth-heavy and different to the rest of the band's discography. The production is certainly where this album's strengths lie, this is most prominent on tracks like 'Eventually', where an orchestra of synths, sneers and crashing symbols create a cascading dream-like soundscape. Elsewhere the band return to their earlier sound with mostly successful results, a key example being 'The Less I Know The Better', where the groove is structured around an instant guitar hook and Cam Avery's impeccable bass. The band revisit their Lonerism sound once again on the track 'The Moment', which features one of the more distinctive and hook-laden melodies on Currents, despite not actually having a defined chorus as such.

Despite the many highs this record has, there are a fair few duds which hinder my overall enjoyment. It is evident from my earlier praise that I adore the production, this has always been my favourite thing about the band itself. My issue with not only this record but Tame Impala as a whole is Kevin Parker's weak and often grating falsetto. Unfortunately this is a vocal style which dominates the indie rock 'scene', hence why it is often so damn dull. When the production is strong, I can overlook weak vocals, but where the production is lackluster and the vocals are more prevalent, they can cross the line into insufferable. 'Disciples' is the biggest culprit of this, the fast pace of the track perhaps making Parker's voice sound extra whiny. But thankfully this track is only 2 minutes long so the suffering is not prolonged, the same cannot be said for 'Cause I'm a Man' which is easily one of the most indulgent, irritating and unappealing songs of their career thus far.

But believe it or not, I actually do quite like this record; It may not be as good as Lonerism, but it still hits far more than it misses. Let It Happen and The Less I Know The Better, both of which are career highlights, in particular ensure that the bad recover from misjudgments such as 'Cause I'm A Man and the awkward interludes. Overall I commend Kevin Parker and Co. for experimenting with the sound that broke them into the mainstream without alienating their older fans, which is somewhat of a rarity in the industry today.


Best tracks: Let It Happen, The Moment, Eventually, The Less I Know The Better