I saw Kevin Parker the other day. It was a Thursday, he was drinking with his girlfriend at the Norfolk, doing his best to be remain anonymous in the mixed weeknight crowd – but with his dope scarf and aloof awareness of how fucking awesome his music is, he stuck out like dog’s balls. My mate went over and chatted for a while, had a cigarette, I remained seated: I made a bit of a dick of myself the last time I saw the one and only, and was not keen to repeat my mistake. Eventually my mate came back, and Kevin returned to distractedly chatting and sipping his wine. Go tell that story to a Brazilian backpacker and they’ll shit their pants. It’s this familiarity with Tame Impala – with their sound, as well as their background in the Perth underground and their meteoric rise to fame – that stops me from buying into the hype around their new album, Currents.
Taken on its own merit, Currents is a solid, well-produced synthpop record with some interesting psych aspects; the neo-psychedelic jams of the previous two albums reimagined as tripped-out EDM bangers. As a follow-up to 2012’s Lonerism, however, Currents is largely disappointing and it pales in comparison to 2010’s Innerspeaker. The album certainly has its strengths: songs such as ‘The Moment’ and ‘Past Life’ show the greatest use of Parker’s new direction – ear-worm beats and soaring synth lines that creep under your skin just like they used to – and the tasty little interludes like ‘Nangs’ and ‘Gossips’ are brilliant additions. However Currents lacks the natural progression that made Lonerism such a great successor to Innerspeaker. The Tame Impala ‘sound’ is certainly still there – lush, varied melodies stacked on addictively cyclical grooves, but what Currents brings to the table sonically is much more vocal, synth-driven and simplistic, placing a spotlight on Kevin’s masterful production and use of effects. The unfortunate consequence of this is that his often-weak vocal delivery and shitty, shitty lyrics also come to the fore. Songs like ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’ or the abhorrent ‘Yes, I’m Changing’ drag the entire album down and show, in my opinion a far less attractive side of Kevin: vapid, jealous, and ashamed of his background. Currents is a strong release from one of Western Australia’s most-beloved bands, but it fails to reach the heights of the band’s previous efforts.
Review by Nick Morlet