ALBUM: Tame Impala ‘Currents’


Currents does a unique thing: it unpacks ideas at its leisure over the course of 13 tracks while refusing to co-opt the pop sound of any decade that might, or might not, be currently in vogue. And this is done at a time when pop is demanding that music be quick, slick and empty. Yes, Kevin Parker’s sound has perhaps been too often associated with “‘Seventies-style psychedelia” (whatever that is) in the past, but unlike his more craven contemporaries, Parker’s band Tame Impala have danced nimbly out of the way of musical atrophy. Parker does what he likes, as well he might.

This healthy attitude makes Currents, Tame Impala’s third studio LP (which was written, recorded, produced and mixed in Fremantle, West Australia) a work that is crammed with material comprising properly constructed songs, casual asides and undisguised funked-up romps. The record possesses a conversational aspect because of this. It dips and slides, suddenly raucous then quietly eloquent.

Kicking off with ‘Let It Happen’, you get the phasing, reverb and fuzz of old but with a renewed vigour full of minor chords and texture, refreshingly unreliant on association with any particular decade’s style of production. It’s danceable and melodic, happy to play around with the song’s percussive elements. Being Australian, the muse decidedly avoids all the traps and trappings of UK corporate muzak that currently passes for wholesome fare. A very welcome orchestration swamps the song mid way through to yank it in a different direction.

‘Nangs’ is a fleeting electro funk groove, but why not say something briefly? While ‘The Moment’ sees Parker sidestep the monumental boredom that results from a yen for the cabaret and heritage currently afflicting Anglo-Saxon pop-rock. The sound showcased here is increasingly unclassifiable. ‘Yes I’m Changing’ possesses the time and space necessary to create a vibe, a feeling. Not shackled by the need to vomit sound senselessly into a two-minute soundbite, this is the most appealing track on the album.

The shifting electro palette continues with ‘Eventually’ which becomes symphonic, compressed and elongated, before ‘Gossip’ is thrown into the rich mix as a palate cleanser, an amuse-bouche. ‘The Less I Know The Better’ is an infectious groove of the Weldon Irvine variety and echoes with real confidence, while ‘Past Life’ betrays a definite classical sensibility scored through with a take-it-or-leave-it voice over that has been ground through a phaser. Then comes ‘Reality In Motion’ which will affect the sun-starved ears of northern Europeans in a curiously pleasant way, invested as it is with the goodwill borne of sun lounging down under.

As the LP rounds itself out with ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’, there arrives a bold change of gear midway through this song that rips you out of the heavily-riffed funk and sends you back out the door through which you entered. So the question remains, where can Tame Impala can go next? Parker does not want for courage, happy to please himself, and in so doing, please the listener who demands refreshed music that isn’t mired in subcultural tedium. Currents is something of a marvel in these arid times.

Currents is released on 17th July via Fiction.

Jason Holmes