Whether you are into swirling psychedelic rock, shimmering synth-pop or classic disco and electronic music, Tame Impala has you covered. It is the passion project of one man: critically acclaimed Australian multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker. Raised in Perth, Parker was introduced to music from a young age by his father, a guitarist in a cover band that routinely played songs by Supertramp and The Beatles; both of these bands are clear inspirations for Parker’s sound. Parker’s voice also sounds uncannily similar to John Lennon’s, notably in Tame Impala’s more psychedelic releases.
Tame Impala’s first full album release came in the form of 2010’s psychedelic rock experience InnerSpeaker, which tackled themes of introspection, disdain for the 9 to 5 routine and the anxieties of indecision. The hypnotic drones of reverberated and phase-shifted guitars perfectly complement Parker’s echoed falsettos, creating a trance-like experience for the listener. My picks from this record would be Runway Houses City Clouds, Alter Ego, and Solitude is Bliss.
Following InnerSpeaker’s positive reviews, Parker set out to top his last effort, creating what is widely considered his greatest work: 2012’s Lonerism. Where its predecessor discussed the theme of physical isolation, Lonerism tackles mental isolation; feeling disconnected while being surrounded. This is expertly presented in the album’s artwork, a picture taken by Parker in Paris. The photographer is witnessing a crowd of people enjoying themselves while he views them from the other side of a metal fence, symbolising the isolation he feels within the prison of his social disconnection. Despite this record still drawing heavily on manipulated guitars, we see a movement towards synthesisers and the occasional more pop-inspired structures that Tame Impala would carry further in later records. Parker creates vividly colourful soundscapes through walls of reverberated synths which are almost without exception followed by incredibly tight, infectiously catchy rhythm sections. Stand out tracks are Apocalypse Dreams, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards and Elephant.
Five years after the monumental success of Lonerism we were given Currents a synthesiser-heavy, sugary psych-pop album. The hypnotic melodies on songs like Let It Happen and the instantly recognisable bass lines of The Less I Know The Better and New Person, Same Old Mistakes, which went on to be covered by Rihanna, make this album far more accessible to pop audiences than its predecessors. The album covers themes of love (and falling out of it), coming to terms with change and the uncertainties of life. It is a journey through losing and finding yourself again in thirteen tracks of lush instrumental lines produced with the precision of a perfectionist, moving away from the maximalist production of Lonerism. In true Tame Impala fashion, the rhythm sections are rich, sonically diverse and all sound gigantic through a sound system or headphones. Alongside the aforementioned songs, Yes I’m Changing, The Moment’ and Eventually are also massive highlights in the tracklist.
Tame Impala’s most recent release, The Slow Rush, is another step further away from Parker’s psychedelic beginnings. With clear influences from disco, electronic music and funk, we are presented with a multitude of different tracks. The Slow Rush is an hour-long rollercoaster of sonic influences expertly mixed with lyrics that are dense with mantras and affirmations. This album could not have come at a better time, having been released just before the COVID-19 pandemic had taken its hold on the world. The album mostly revolves around the theme of time, and how life is both a long-form journey and a compilation of many fleeting moments. He contemplates his future, reflects on the past and places an emphasis on the importance of being present in the present; and a dance-inspired album that forces you to move could not be more appropriate. Stand out tracks are Breathe Deeper, Is It True and Lost In Yesterday.
To me, Tame Impala is the quintessential example of music being used for self-expression. Parker pours himself into each album, producing drastically different results with each release. The changes in the music coincide with his growing and changing as a person. I am eagerly awaiting Kevin Parker’s next creation; so far, I am yet to be disappointed.