After a few albums, many bands reach a stage where they decide to experiment with different aspects of music. This territory can lead to huge success, opening a band up to new audiences and critical acclaim (Radiohead’s Kid A), whilst others are seen to be a mistake and soon see them returning to their previous output (Muse after attempting dubstep on The 2nd Law). Tame Impala’s third album Currents is a member of the former category though, and ensures Kevin Parker’s stock continue to rise.
Parker’s reason for changing the sound of his band can be best explained in his own words:
“I was in LA a few years ago and for some reason we’d taken mushrooms. […] A friend was driving us around LA in this old sedan. He was playing the Bee Gees and it had the most profound emotional effect. I was listening to Staying Alive, a song I’ve heard all my life. At that moment it had this really emotive, melancholy feel to it. The beat felt overwhelmingly strong and, at that moment, it sounded pretty psychedelic. It moved me, and that’s what I always want out of psych music. I want it to transport me.”
His desire to engender an emotional response to his music has provoked Parker to move away from the conventional guitar sound for which Tame Impala are known, yet the essence of the band still remains. On previous albums Parker has bombarded the listener with a wall of noise, using the fuzz of guitars to create an effect that’s overwhelming. Yet from the first few seconds of ‘Let it Happen’, the eight minute sprawling masterpiece which opens Currents, the synth loop that forms the crux of the song, as well as the album, indicates that he’s entering an unrecognizable realm. It may be a simple song considering what Parker is capable of, but the sound he produces still creates an almighty wall of noise which charges at the listener.
At its heart however, Currents is a break up album in which Parker constantly reflects on the decisions he has made, their consequences and how he has changed. On ‘Eventually’, he goes from a bombastic opening to a gorgeous, quiet yet lonesome affair singing “I’ll know that I’ll be happier/And I know you will too”, an almost perfect analogy to how many relationships start and end. Other titles like ‘Past Life’, ‘Yes I’m Changing’, ‘Love/Paranoia’ and ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’ all allude to his growth as a person and how he has moved on. The way in which he intercuts such intricate and personal lyrics against the lush melody of each song is songwriting at it’s finest. He makes you feel as if you’re on his side, that you’re happy with the decision to end the relationship so you can change. It may be upsetting at first but it’s the right choice to make.
The best track though is ‘‘Cause I’m A Man’, a song title which out of context may seem controversial, yet simply refers to the fact that he messes up because he is one. Parker’s gorgeous falsetto hovers over the swirling base of the song, a perfect companion to floating on through life without a care in the world.
Parker has successfully changed his sound with exceptional results. Old fans may not like the new sound, but the core at which the songs operate is still there under new dance orientated synthesizer. Where he chooses to head next will be interesting to say the least, but either way it is extremely likely to be received with acclaim.
Favorite Tracks: Let it Happen, Yes I’m Changing, Eventually, Cause I’m A Man
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.