Reviewed by Alastair Matcott on 1 October 2012
Rated 9.5 out of 10
Key Track: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Kevin Parker is one lonely dude.
As the creative force behind one of Australia’s most popular bands, you’d think the Tame Impala frontman would have no shortage of friends. Similarly, his eternally affable demeanour and cosmically playful soundscapes would suggest otherwise. But back in 2008 his “only company was a half-full glass of wine”, and in 2010 he asserted that “company’s okay/solitude is bliss.”
In 2012, Parker is still on his own, and things are starting to get serious; “pretty soon from now I’ll disconnect completely/ see how that works out.”
But it’s this juxtaposition between Tame Impala’s bright, expansive music and Parker’s thematic melancholy and subdued delivery which is one of the band’s most endearing qualities. And on the band’s second full length Lonerism, Tame Impala have never sounded brighter or more expansive; nor has Parker sounded so damn sad.
Recorded over two years in either a Paris apartment, Parker’s native Perth, or “studios, planes, hotels and homes around“ (depends who you ask); Lonerism sounds like its creation couldn’t be nailed down to one place, time, headspace or chemical.
It instantly sounds like Tame Impala, and as such it recalls the same things the group always have: John Lennon’s breathy falsetto, late-sixties paisley melodies, weed. But whereas Innerspeaker peppered its psychedelia with dance music, Lonerism is much more of a trip.
Announcing itself with the barnstorming mix of vocals and drums, ‘Be Above It’ sounds closer to a cut from The Flaming Lips’ Embryonic than anything in Tame Impala’s discography, suggesting a far less restrained album.
Parker has previously claimed that this time around “if there was a pop melody I’d put it in a soundscape where [it's] just going to laser-beam you in the face.” Fuck yeah, Kevin.
It’s an apt description of the album, because despite the more far-out ventures, it’s still packed with pop melodies. Both ‘Why Won’t They Talk To Me’ and especially ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ have irresistibly catchy choruses; while ‘Endors Toi’ and ‘Music To Walk Home To’ are brimming with an infectious celebratory air.
It wouldn’t be a Tame Impala record without a slew of long-winded cosmic freak-outs though, and the bombastic drums, meandering bass lines, chiming synths and phasered guitar-lines all arrive in abundance, but Parker keeps things interesting – and fun.
Cutting off the over-the-top melodrama of ‘She Just Won’t Believe Me’ after only a minute; he pushes a verse of ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” under a rug while a woman tries to reconcile his mood; and you can imagine the laughs he first had when he sang “here he comes” before an onslaught of synths barrel through ‘Elephant’.
But alas, all this fun isn’t lifting Parker’s spirits. On ‘Why Won’t They Talk To Me’ he laments “whoopsie daisy/ I thought I was happy”. By album closer, and Tame Impala’s first ballad, ‘Sun’s Coming Up’, he drops his falsetto and finally lets the music follow his somber mood.
Like their debut, Lonerism sounds best when taken in as a whole. Preferably outside in a field, while the sun’s uninterrupted by clouds. And its October release almost guarantees it will become the soundtrack to a myriad of Australian summer road-trips.
More far-out than its predecessor, but not too trippy as to obscure their many fans, Lonerism is another sensational album by one of Australia’s most creative artists.
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