Australian psych-rock outfit Tame Impala won numerous plaudits and worldwide acclaim back in 2010 for their eclectic debut, Innerspeaker. The album blended thick, searing guitar lines with rumbling percussion and spaced-out vocals heavily indebted to the trippy sound of Abbey Road-era Beatles. Despite performing live as a full five-piece band, Tame Impala is really the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and producer Kevin Parker, who adopts the role of chief songwriter and creative director in the band, as well as appearing in a background role in side project Pond, whose fourth album, Beard, Wives, Denim, was released to positive reviews earlier this year.
On Lonerism, Tame Impala’s second full-lengh effort, the band employ the same distinctive vocal sound over sprawling drums and thick riffs, but add a stronger electronic element to the pot. These long, heavy synthesizer chords stretch the tracks out, creating more space and time to absorb the levels of instrumentation, no better exemplified than on the mid-album medley of ‘Why Don’t They Talk To Me’ and ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’. If Innerspeaker grabbed you by the neck and wrestled you to the ground, Lonerism seeps gently into your conscience. It’s all in all a smoother, more comfortable ride than their debut – you can simply stick it on and let it wash over you.
With the instrumentation and overall atmosphere of the album that much denser, the first few listens might be somewhat unfulfilling. It’s only once the album has been properly digested that what at first sounded like plodding, wayward toe-tappers become distinctive, powerful songs in their own right. Once those initial hurdles have been negotiated, Lonerism is hugely rewarding and very quickly gets under the skin. ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ is probably the single track which best encapsulates the overall feel of the record. A springboard for the rest of the album, its intense instrumental mix-up and psychedelic overtones are a delight. Arguably Parker’s most experimental piece to date, ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ drifts on, its jittery but forceful bass line dotted with splashes of colour throughout.
This is not to say Lonerism doesn’t have its freak-out moments, however, the skittering riff on ‘Mind Mischief’ is the first really arresting moment on the album, a necessary pick-me-up after the slog of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’. Something must also be said for lead single ‘Elephant’, a monster of a song and easily one of the most infectious and listenable of the year. Its heavy, chugging riff is the clearest throwback to Innerspeaker on the record, but its electronic break and whirring synthesizers mark it definitively as a Lonerism track. As a punchy, direct thwack to the chops, it works in perfect counterbalance to the more spacious tracks on the album.
Lonerism represents a natural and stable evolution in the band’s sound. While there is nothing on here that will alienate fans of Innerspeaker, the record marks a distinct stylistic shift from their debut, in both song writing and production. Tame Impala’s previous work felt somewhat cramped – big, expansive ideas and numerous sonic layers were often crammed into tight, conventional structures. With their second LP, these ideas have been allowed the freedom to stretch out of those confines. The end result is an album of comparatively seismic proportions which offers numerous treats buried within its dense textures. A significant and welcome step-up from their debut, Tame Impala have crafted an infectious record, one as instantly gratifying as it is adventurous and unique.
Jack is listening to Micachu & The Shapes – ‘Never’