By Nicole Despotopulos
Around two years ago, a friend and I were driving through Cambridge on our way to see the San Diego-based surf pop band, WAVVES, at the Sinclair.
While we were passing through the Harvard University area, a song came on the radio that immediately caught my attention.
“Gotta be above it now,” sang a Lennon-esque voice.
“This sounds just like the Beatles!” I exclaimed.
My friend had informed me that it was not the Beatles, but in fact Western Australia’s psych-rock band, Tame Impala.
“Well, they sound like the Beatles stuck in a well or something,” I responded.
That was two years ago. Tame Impala, or should I say, Kevin Parker, has evolved since then.
(Kevin Parker (center), Cam Avery (left), and Julien Barbagallo (far right) of Tame Impala at Boston Calling. May 22, 2015.
Parker is the multi-instrumentalist, singer, and creative source of the band. With an exception of two songs off the second album, co-written by keyboard player Jay Watson, Parker alone has written and recorded all of the band’s music.
The first two albums had clear influence by the Beatles. “Innerspeaker,” released in 2010, was almost like an acid-induced trip. With tracks such as “Jeremy’s Storm” and “Desire Be Desire Go,” you felt as if you’d taken a trip back to the 60s. It was the Beatles revisited, four decades later.
In 2012, the band released their second album, “Lonerism,” which included raw rock songs like “Elephant,” accompanied with psych-pop sounds heard in tracks like “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.” Touring with the psychedelia band The Flaming Lips, the year 2012 proved well for Parker. The track, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” was nominated for a Grammy. Back home in Australia, Tame Impala won several awards at the ARIAs (The Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards).
This year, Tame Impala’s third album, “Currents,” released on July 17, having a much different sound than its preceding albums. To the luck of fans and music buffs alike, the highly anticipated album leaked online July 6 and had recently been streaming for free on NPR and Pitchfork.
Packed with upbeat dance songs, reminiscent of 70s funk/R&B and Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” record, Parker brings us on a journey of change, heartbreak, past love, and self-acceptance.
It begins with a futuristic, seven-minute long track titled, “Let It Happen.” This track was the first single to be released off the album earlier this year. It packs a punch, and proves to fans that Parker is changing as a person and an artist – whether they like it or not.
The first half of the album includes the tracks, “Let It Happen,” “Nangs,” “The Moment,” “Yes I’m Changing,” and “Eventually.” I believe that they are a representation of Parker realizing he is changing, and being afraid to break the heart of the one he loves. “Nangs” is an interlude-type song with an unforgettable beat – you will be blasting it in your car regularly. “The Moment” begins with a beat similar to the one on the 1990 track, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” by Tears for Fears. “Yes I’m Changing,” is a beautiful, slow song. One could say the lyrics are a bit corny, but they are relatable. It is definitely one of my favorites on the album.
“Eventually” has caused quite a stir in the Tame Impala community with the lines, “If only there could be another way to do this…’cause it feels like murder to put your heart through this.” It is obvious that the song is about Parker breaking up with a lover and being afraid to break her heart. In this case, the lover was French singer Melody Prochet of Melody’s Echo Chamber. Prochet was a large part of Parker’s life and was an inspiration to Tame Impala’s second album, “Lonerism.”
Parker does not necessarily believe that Currents is a breakup album. In an article from The Guardian, Parker is quoted saying, “It’s not necessarily about that one situation. The inspiration to write a song comes to me when something has happened to me more than once. If it’s happened to me more than once, it’s probably happened to other people.”
The transition from the first half of the album to the second begins with the interlude “Gossip,” a mysterious 55-second long track. Following the interlude is the track “The Less I Know the Better.” With an opening beat reminiscent of the Bee Gees, this song has the potential to become a hit single. The lyrics are catchy and they rhyme: “Someone said they left together, I ran out the door to get her, she was holding hands with Trevor, not the greatest feeling ever.”
Perhaps the most unique song on the track is “Past Life,” a song that is spoken. Upon first listening to it, I was reminded of Tyler The Creator, who slows his voice down in many of his own songs. It was cringe-worthy, unfortunately, but after giving it a listen or two I found that I enjoyed it. It is different – in a good way. It is about Parker seeing a lover from his past while picking up a suit from the dry cleaners. At one point in the song, you hear him say, “I don’t even know if she has the same number…who knows…maybe she does.” So, it is assumed that he tries to start things over with the mystery woman from his past. The next song, “Disciples,” makes me think that maybe things did not go so well with the past lover. There are many interpretations that can be made from this song. Also, it reminds me of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.”
Following “Disciples,” is “‘Cause I’m A Man.” My first reaction to this song was not a positive one. I was disappointed, confused as to what type of sound Parker was going for. This was before I heard the album of course, and after a listen or two I found I enjoyed it. Fans created a music video for the song, using puppets that resembled the band members. Also, a choir from Toronto, known as Choir!Choir!Choir! posted their own cover of the song on Youtube. The album was not released at this time, but already proving to be a hit.
The last three tracks on the album are among my favorites. They are “Reality In Motion,” “Love/Paranoia,” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”
“Reality In Motion” is a mixture of Tame Impala’s old sound and new sound. A song that may come to mind is “Music to Walk Home By,” from their second album, “Lonerism.” The song expresses Parker’s doubt in a relationship. With lyrics such as “I’ve done all this waiting, vision ever fading. Making such a promise only leads to heartache, closer to an earthquake, talk about a heartache. Try to stay in motion,” he is telling himself to stay in motion and stick to reality, even if he’s having doubts about a certain relationship. My favorite part of the song is around the two-minute mark. Parker slows the beat and uses a maraca-type instrument to sing along to.
“Love/Paranoia,” the second-to-last song on the album, is about Parker doing something to upset the woman he loves. Parker seems to lash out, but apologizes for whatever it is that he did, tying into the last song, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” Parker is a new person, or so he thinks. He is still making the same mistakes made in the past.
The song “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” is not about the mistakes he made in a relationship, but mistakes in general – mistakes in his career. The song begins with the line, “I can just hear them now, ‘how could you let us down?’ but they don’t know what I found, or see it from this way around.” I think that this is about him changing his sound, and “they” could be those that are higher up in the music business, as well as the fans. This song finishes the album basically saying that he is a new person, and that he is finally going to go after what he has longed for. He does not care if people believe he is “fake,” or if they like the fact that he is changing. He believes he is a brand new person, and knows that he will still make the same mistakes, but overall, he has changed for the better.
If I had to rate this album on a scale of one to ten, I would give it a nine. The album has a different sound that fans have to get used to. I definitely had to give a few of the songs more than one listen to decide whether I liked them or not. To be honest, anything Parker produces is pure talent, and bound to be a hit – something he’s proven within the past five years. Maybe with this album, fans will finally be able to hear the Perth-based band on the mainstream radio. Either way, this album has potential to be a hit of the summer, with songs that could be nominated for music awards both here and in Australia.