Perth psychedelic act Tame Impala’s much anticipated follow up to the 2010 release Innerspeaker has finally hit the shelves. The aforementioned was met with great critical acclaim, hence the hype surrounding this release.
Tame Impala is essentially the brainchild of Kevin Parker who writes almost all of the material, plays all the instruments, sings all the vocal parts and produces the recordings, with the other band members being utilized mainly for live performances. A fairly talented lad then! No doubt, and after catching them guest programming rage a few nights ago, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this album.
As you’d imagine, the material on offer here is quite floaty and ethereal. Parker draws influence from early ‘Floyd, ’60s garage rock and left field ’90s pop like My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and Air. There are a myriad of ethereal synth sounds peppered throughout the album which accompany the jangly guitar tones and reverb drenched vocal sounds. It doesn’t really feel like a throwback album though. Much of it is adventurous and progressive, featuring clever arrangements which avoid the verse-chorus-verse approach for the most part. I can’t help but be reminded of fellow Australian psych act Deep Sea Arcade who I reviewed a few months back. While it is an enjoyable and swirling album, it lacks the real pop catchiness of DSA’s recent effort. There is a distinct absence of any real hooks and many of the tracks seem to meander and drift aimlessly about the place just waiting for a killer chorus or some kind of crescendo. I have no issue with bands eschewing conventional pop structures in favour of experimentalism, unless it’s at the expense of the quality of the overall result, as is the case here. Tame Impala are a pop band, and while they are one of Australia’s biggest musical exports, Lonerism is just a bit disappointing. This is surprising, given their influences are among my favourite bands. Perhaps Parker is in need of a collaborative partner or producer to give his undoubted talent some much needed discipline and direction. None of the music is unpleasant or of poor quality, but I can only identify two tracks that are in any way deserving of a single release. Fortunately, “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” are the two singles from the album. (I didn’t know that until just now, after I typed the two titles!). Unlike the rest of the album, these tracks involve the listener with catchy vocal melodies and infectious beats. “Elephant” in particular has a stomping, swinging rhythm and some terrific fuzzed out guitar and bass parts, not to mention a drum solo! “Enders Toi” and “Apocalypse Dreams” are reasonably interesting tracks and offer some pretty nice chord progressions and vocal melodies. Apart from these tracks, the album is rather formless, slightly uninteresting and quite unengaging really . Despite Parker’s obvious talent, his adventurousness has led him astray. The phase and tremolo effects are overdone and the synth sounds are too prevalent with an emphasis on production rather than composition. On first listen you may think “hey that synth sounds amazing”, but on repeated listens “hey this synth part is all effect and no melody”. Unfortunately it’s a common theme throughout Lonerism.
I expected a much better, more cohesive effort, and sadly, this album is interchangeable with its predecessor, offering little in terms of musical advancement. I get sick of saying this, but this album is not bad, it’s just not great. It contains some impressive moments sure, but they’re few and far between. While I admire Parker’s musical vision and drive, he’s missed the mark here. This isn’t a true pop record. I don’t know what it is besides vaguely psychedelic. It neither pleases nor offends in any great amount, and for that reason alone it gets a…