Currents Album Review
Modular, Universal, Fiction, Interscope Records
Released July 17, 2015
Genre: Psychedelic Pop, Disco, Synth Pop, New Wave, Dream Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
Since their inception in 2007, Tame Impala has slowly transformed from a band to a solo project. With their latest album Currents making waves across the nation, it’s evident that this is front-man Kevin Parker’s most intimate and bare record yet. Lyrically, the band’s first two albums – the decent Innerspeaker, and the adventurous Lonerism – proved that Parker’s personal statements are intertwined at the heart of the band’s songs. Where the prior two albums centered on isolation, regret, and bitterness, Currents mainly focuses on heartbreak. It’s an interesting shift in content, highlighted by the lack of guitars to supply a psychedelic rock groove. To ask whether Currents is better than Innerspeaker and Lonerism is besides the point: they are completely different albums. Currents finds Parker take over the controls on pretty much everything on this record as he delivers one of the best heartbreak records of 2015, accentuated by a new wave/pop sound that holds ear-worm hooks here and there, Tame Impala deliver some of their best material, but also some of their most disappointing material.
Following the success of Lonerism, it’s easy to expect Tame Impala to write a banging rock number a la “Elephant”, where Parker demonstrated himself as a guitar riff AND bass groove auteur. However, the absence of guitars on Currents are substituted for shiny and smooth synths that pulsate under Parker’s infectious rhythms. The opener “Let It Happen” is one of the band’s longest tracks yet it’s hindered by a simple verse-chorus verse structure. Nonetheless, the song goes through many different stylistic odysseys and pathways as it effectively introduces the album’s new sound. It’s an interesting change of pace that initially left me dissapointed but I slowly warmed up to it. The following track “Nangs” is a wonderful musical interlude that features some phasered synths draped along a pulsating drum beat. It’s here that Parker’s production talents come to light.
Keep in mind Parker’s writing pop songs here; and with his psychedelic resume behind him, it’s only a matter of time before the songs turn new wave/dream pop-y. The chugging intro of “The Moment” is comically similar to Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”; Parker’s accompanying falsetto accentuates the atmosphere of these tracks further, bringing these pop songs to greater heights. That isn’t to say there aren’t any other musical gems present on the album; the intoxicating funk of “The Less I Know The Better” is Bad-levels of perfection while “Eventually” is the perfect combination of rock and pop as Parker keeps one foot in Lonerism and another in Currents.
Parker’s themes of isolation and heartbreak are present here, as previously stated, most notably on “Yes I’m Changing” where you can hear his emotion and conviction.It’s a powerful ode to transitioning and moving on and goes well with its steady yet nimble beat. Album highlight ”’Cause I’m A Man” finds Parker in the same league as Father John Misty’s incredible I Love You, Honeybear as he takes a look into masculinity and love in a powerfully emotive song, where the early moments are reminiscent of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. Here, Parker demonstrates that he can insert his personal statements on change, growth, isolation, and heartbreak and transform it into something powerful, emotive, and real. However, the album is not without its hangups.
What makes Currents distinctly different from Lonerism and Innerspeaker isn’t so much as gnarly riffs and Hendrix-like solos but song structure and vocal tonage. Tame Impala’s songs grew from being starkly basic to unsuspectingly adventurous in the gap between Innerspeaker and Lonerism. These song structures made Lonerism enjoyable because it kept them from sounding like an acid-baked Beatles cover band and more of something of their own. Yet with the simple structure here on Currents, the band sounds oddly bland amidst the colorful and shiny production. Additionally, Parker’s vocal tonage is 98% falsetto here and it can only go so high before it sounds forced and tired. While his voice accompanies the shiny production here, it doesn’t excuse a lack of depth or variety from a band that could surprise us with every song. Tracks like “Gossip” sound like unfinished and bland filler tracks that are just produced well.
Currents isn’t a bad album, it’s actually a great one. The production is some of Parker’s best work; the drums are crisp, the bass is funky, the synths shine with power, and the melodies are infectious as hell. I don’t mind the more pop direction because its interesting to see Tame Impala change things up a bit. But what’s missing is variety, vocal depth, and spontaneity. Currents is clearly a transitional album, but it’s also a personal one. A statement saying that it’s easy to perfect things in the studio, but nicer to know that outside of the studio, progress works as perfection. Things are changing for Parker, and Tame Impala along with him are changing too.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Let It Happen, Nangs, The Moment, Yes I’m Changing, Eventually, The Less I Know The Better, Disciples, ‘Cause I’m A Man, Reality In Motion, New Person/Same Old Mistakes
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Gossip