3 January 2016
Tame Impala - Currents
I know, I know - when we were compiling the recent album of the year blog and sending out the voting list, along with Slayer (blame Jerm for that one, he gave it 7 out of ten) I was mostly asked why 'Currents' by Tame Impala was not included in the list. Long story short, we lost contributors and there is only so much time in the world. Hence why it was not reviewed and therefore it was not on the list, but better late than never...... Anyway, this is the third album from this Australian psychedelic rock/pop band and was released in June of 2015. As with their other recordings, the album was recorded by main member Kevin Parker with no help or special guests, Mr Parker also produced, recorded and mixed the album. So it is one man's vision which he has been working on since 2012, recorded at his home studio and with no direct outside contributions (apart from anything that influenced Mr Parker). The cover is a great image and looks like a dream melting in your mind, something that is retro before you even hear a note of the music. It has been gaining a hell of a lot of praise since it was released and this gives me a moment to pause - sometimes the year's biggest hitters (see Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse, etc) are albums I tend not to enjoy, I think it is the awkward geeky teenager in me that always wants to rebel. I can also state that I have not heard this band before, so with no real reference point or knowledge of their music.... here we go.
Opening the album is "Let It Happen" which has a mixture of psychedelic rock, old school R&B and modern dream pop, indie alternative rock that has been slowly making a return. Basically it gives the vibe of MGMT, The War on Drugs, Marvin Gaye and Kurt Vile having a jam with the producer of the last album by Tall Tales & Silver Linings recording the outcome. It is a sound that has a lot of Air and Giorgio Moroder about it and it is very hypnotic to say the least. You can feel that there is a desire for adventure from the beginning which is sucking in the past and creating something that will hopefully stand up in the future. It does go on a bit, just shy of eight minutes in length and whilst it is not boring by any stretch of the imagination, I cannot imagine it would have been any worse if the last two minutes were not included. But this is just me and my silly opinions and it does not stop the track from being an interesting opening to say the least. Almost as a counterbalance, "Nangs" is next and it is just under two minutes long; it sounds like Groove Armada on a bad acid trip, all strange and out of time with a surreal feeling to the song. I actually like this song and it fades out just as I was getting into the groove of the number; I have a feeling that this might be a strange album even after two tracks, which are just under ten minutes I am confused, puzzled, curious and interested. "The Moment" is part disco, part deconstruction and all fighting to the very end. It has such a strong soul to it that you cannot help but be impressed by this number. It is a song dealing with anticipation, falling in and out of love and not quite knowing what is happening; it builds up around a solid bass drop and comes in and out all the way through, there are layers upon layers of synths, some drumming that keeps you on your toes and a great set of lyrics - this is a song that builds on the promise of the first two and delivers for me. "Yes I'm Changing" is a drifting song that sounds like it has been carved out of mist and made solid with a bass rhythm that could knock over an Elephant. It has a trip out feel to the music once again, you are trapped in a swirling holiday nightmare of the 80's but it is given a new face and somehow it makes it all alright (I don't know how, but it really does work). The song about changing and how you cannot deny that you are changing; anyone who says otherwise is a liar and Tame Impala nails it here. A great song which is very unsettling, thought provoking and a bit of a nightmare to the soul.
"Eventually" is the fifth song on the album which starts with a louder than life, big balls riff and then goes into this gentle verse that acts as a natural in a way that really should not be working for me. When I was first listening to this I was a little nonplussed by the experience of this song, but as I have come back to it I have realised that it had been in my head for days. It had just been following me around like a little butterfly of doom, gently waving its strange and wonderful sounds into my brain as I was trying to listen to something for pleasure and the joy/pleasure of it. It has a big ass feel to the song and it grabs you in a violent and strong way, but the music is so gentle in places that it feels that the embodiment of a contradiction - wonderfully strange. Next is the interlude that is "Gossip", it is over in less than a minute and is over as soon as it is goes anywhere; so we will go into the next song which is called "The Less I Know The Better". This song is so deep in the 80's that Miami Vice will appear on the TV when you put it on, it is incredibly retro and stylised which will have people divided in a way that I have only seen come to light when you mention the spread called Marmite. I love the bass line on this song, it is something that you can groove along to and the drumming is spot on as well; there are sections which remind me of 'Off The Wall' Michael Jackson and that is meant as a compliment. I love that it has a late disco/prog theme to the song, I love the bit about Superman and his stupid line; if anything it is one of the songs on the album that I wish had been extended. But it is still a good number, one of the best of the record. "Past Life" starts with a synth sound that sounds like notes falling down and upstairs, I love it as it gives you something to focus on. There is a distorted spoken piece about going on with your daily routine when you glimpse at a former lover in the mirror, then a dose of distortion is released into the song. It is an art house number, a tale of repressed memories being brought to the surface and the need to reconnect with that person that you have not been able to shake from your memories. It is another number which brings a lot of positives to the album, it has a great narrative and a brilliant tune that can lash onto your mind and come to the surface when you least expect it.
"Disciples" is next and this is another number that is criminally short, it has such potential and it sounds fantastic and it is over in just over a minute and a half. It is a song that is perfect as it is and would also have been great if it was expanded to three times its length and further. It is a number that love but I also wish that it was longer too, seems to be a pattern on this record. "'Cause I'm A Man" - no, just no. We are on this sphere for a short amount of time and this sort of song really annoys me when people use their gender as an excuse for being a dick and it is not just boys that do this - I get just as annoyed when ladies do it as well. However good the music is, the lyrics ruin the song to the extent that even thinking about it really pisses me off; so I will leave this number and move onto the next one. The next song is called "Reality in Motion" and we are back to the strange tripping noise of the early song and all is better with the world, it has a chorus that really needs to be sung out loud at some point and you cannot underestimate that sort of music. The groove in the number is understated and it also has a few subtle touches that melt the heart; it was needed to be truthful and it brings the album back on the right path. The penultimate song of the album is called "Love/Paranoia" which takes a little while to actually get into its groove, it is a slow burner that builds up on the nightmare lined dream music (seriously, this sounds like the soundtrack to my nightmares when I was a kid but in a really good way) that kicks in around the one minute, twenty-ish time when it takes the pace up a notch; you have a really charming number here towards the end of the album. The last song is called "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" which ends album on a strange plateau; I think that the song itself is decent and as good as anything off the album, the only thing is that it feels no real difference to this song to any other number on the album. It is not bad, it is just not doing anything too different to the other songs either.
I will get the negatives out of the way first - "'Cause I'm A Man" is awful and that is the end of it, also the album goes on about two tracks too long and it drags the album down for me. Also a few of the longer tracks could have been shorten and the shorter tracks given more room to breathe. However overall I can see why this album has received all the praise that has been coming its way, it is a well-crafted album that is from one man's vision and has some moments that really hit the spot. It is a strange beast that is well worth checking out, even just to see what the hype is about. It would have made the listings for album of the year if it was reviewed in time, but not sure where it would have ended up overall. File under very good, but still undecided....
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time & heart
Top song - The Less I Know The Better
You can purchase Currents on Amazon here
You can visit the Tame Impala website here
You can follow the activities of Tame Impala on Facebook here
You can stream Currents on Spotify here
You can stream Currents on Deezer here
You can stream Currents on Tidal here
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