Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tame Impala - Lonerism


TameImpala could very well be the 21st centuries answer to Pink Floyd. 2010’s “Innerspeaker” was received exceptionally well be pretty much every music publication around the world. Australia isn’t the best place to look for innovative new music, but Tame Impala want to change all of that. All the recordings are by frontman Kevin Parker. He is essentially the only person in Tame Impala; however he has several others perform with him live creating the band format. 

Since releasing Innerspeaker in 2010, Tame Impala have collaborated with idols The Flaming Lips on the track “Children of The Moon” for the compilation album “TheFlaming Lips and Heady Friends”. This track is specifically drone-like and psych rock heavy. Tame Impala have taken a massive influence from The Flaming Lips, among many other psych bands on “Lonerism”. Similarities in sound can be put down to Tame Impala utilizing David Fridmann (The Flaming Lips / Mercury Rev) producing Lonerism. 

Lonerism is a perplex album which sounds remarkably British in the James Bond / 60's mod craze sense. The synth loops are utterly fantastic throughout this album. Opening track "Be Above It" is an early indication of what to expect. D.I.Y and lo-fi drumming with 70's synthesizers and vintage textures are amidst Parker's brilliant vocals. "Endors Toi" is just as vintage and psychedelic as the previous track. A whole range of effects are used on the acoustic guitar and the synths. The synths trickle from the left side to the right side and back, while the acoustic guitar primarily sticks to the left and wah-wah's its way in and out of focus. The real deal happens 90 seconds in when Parker's vocal enters. An echoey opening verse triggers the fast paced and exuberating bass guitar. The track draws to a close in a matter of minutes, but not before a chaotic electric guitar rips through the effects and parallels the bass guitar. It's a fantastic opening five minutes to Lonerism, one of the most psychedelic and ear-pleasing opening segments I’ve heard so far this year.

It doesn’t stop there. "Apocalypse Dreams" opens with a heavy vintage piano on the left side, alongside the steady bass guitar and simple drumming on the right. Secondary piano enters shortly after with Parker's reverberated vocal. This track is extraordinary because it seems to cross genres with its overdrive and sporadic structure. It's ultimately several tracks in one, with the first segment flowing directly into the second with a slower bass riff or a more composed drum pattern. At two minutes, the synth loop on the right takes over with a very withdrawn left sided guitar solo. Parker sings, "Whoa, am I getting closer? Will I ever get up? Does it even matter?" The breaks in music act as sections, stories and time to think. Lonerism is an album that makes the listener think. Part two of this story enters three minutes in. The music stops and a loud synthesizer rips through with the already heard drum pattern and bass riff. One thing I adore about this section of the track is Parker's lyric straight after the gigantic shift in music structure, "Nothing ever changes." The only thing I can mark Apocalypse Dreams down for is the one minute fade out, because I think fade outs are cheap unless they're used effectively. Note that Jay Watson receives a credit for piano on this track. He’s the only other person to receive a credit other than Kevin Parker.

I'm not really impressed by "Mind Mischief". I just think it's a little in your face and left-field. It's certainly experimental and unusual when compared to other tracks from this album. The bass is very heavy and forward, and so is the guitar work and drumming. It's just a little under produced and too effect heavy. In contrast, I think "Music To Walk Home By" is a spectacular track. The structure is spot on and Parker's vocal is arguably the greatest on the album. The left sided synthesizer is fantastic to hear. It works perfectly with the bass and Parkers withdrawn vocal. He's unusually quiet on this track with the bass again in focus. Again, the structure is extraordinary and the music only improves with time. Synth lines loop and build up as the left sided guitar tabs fade and refrain with the wah-wah effect. Adding to that, the wah-wah effect is heavily overused on Lonerism and it's one of the reasons why Lonerism isn't a unique and get it now album.

The lyrical presence can be felt on the later tracks on Lonerism. "Why WontThey Talk To Me?" is self-explanatory. Parkers feeling of isolation is a topic he covers on pretty much every track. This track is lighter and smoother compared to the previous explosive tracks. Every album needs that one track that questions the listener, giving them time in the process. This is that track. The acoustic guitar and layered vocals are my favourite individual sections of this track, along with the track titles refrain, "Why Wont They Talk To Me?". 

"FeelsLike We Only Go Backwards" is another excellent track. The bass is excessively heavy and it's an annoyance throughout the album, however the melody of this track stands out as the best piece of music on the album. I absolutely adore Parkers layered vocal on the chorus and the tracks ballad-esque structure. "Keep On Lying" never really takes off. The samples are a great inclusion but other than that, it's just a standard Tame Impala track that’s clustered with psychedelic sounds. The monotonous synth/piano stab throughout the track is lovely and brings The Doors to mind with the left sided organ towards the final minute of the track. 

Pre-release single "Elephant" actually doesn’t grab my attention as well as some of the other tracks on Lonerism. The synth riffs and stark bass riff are a clear single indication but other than that it doesn't show or tell me anything. The second half is a progressive rock section with magnificent synths and effects, but its ultimate downfall is the lack of interesting features. The drumming is the same as previous tracks, as is the bass. The vocal is toned down and the synth that takes control only just scrapes double figures in seconds. I can't see why this was picked as a single when there’s a perfectly good single in Feels Like We Only Go Backwards. To clarify, nothing on Lonerism is orgasmic. It's not quite authentic or rock, in the traditional sense. It’s all rather electronic and synth based rather than guitars such as with debut album Innerspeaker. Tame Impala are like a heavy, synth and Australian version of John Lennon's solo work. I think the use of synths and tracks such as "She Just Won't Believe Me" ruin this connection. 

"NothingThat Has Happened So Far" continues the mass amount of synths and drum looping. Drum machines have been used more effectively than the authentic drums from the debut album. Parker's vocal is far more relaxed and calm, especially on this track. It’s quite a nostalgic album with samples, odd ball effects and twirling psych synths. Keeping with the nostalgic theme, the album ends with "Sun's Coming Up". The piano is very child-like again, with emphasis on the heavily effected vocal. It’s a delightful end to the heavy and abrasive album; however the final minute of synth features kind of ruin the final piece for me. The album then closes with white noise.

Listeners shouldn’t expect Innerspeaker, because these albums are clearly different in the choice of influence, topic and instrumentation varieties. Tame Impala have a solid follow-up album with a number of very good psychedelic tracks; it just doesn’t surprise me or take my breath away. An excessive use of wah-wah and chorus is a clear negative on the album. Clustered material is down to Parkers sole role in Tame Impala. On more than one occasion, the bass takes focus instead of what would be ideally the drums or acoustic guitar. The synths are nice I'll admit, but they're never a highlight for me. The lyrical theme and progressive rock nature of Lonerism are the high points. The structural changes and progressions are absolutely beautiful such as on Apocalypse Dreams and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards. Lonerism never quite grabs me and keeps me listening. The synths and bass become off-putting and that’s a real turn off for me. The authenticity of Innerspeaker has been lost with a mass amount of effects. It can be the best album of the year to some, and the worst to other. For me it's up there as one of the most adventurous albums, but also one of the most fulfilling albums.
~Eddie

8.3

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