Rarely has music been this anticipated. Currents, the Tame Impala album that made Australian Kevin Parker the world’s most famous bedroom auteur, was released nearly five years ago. A mid-career milestone, Currents was the culmination of everything Parker had been working towards – a cyclone of reverb, keys, guitars and oft-kilter club beats throbbing under Parker’s soaring falsetto. Songs like “Let It Happen”, “Eventually” and especially, “’ Cause I’m a Man” were distinct, memorable, even a bit visionary. Tame Impala’s second album, Lonerism, had already paved the road for a cult audience. Currents made it an expressway. Some collaborations, and lots of touring followed, but as time wore on, there was nothing from Parker but radio silence.
Finally, in the spring of last year, two new “teaser tracks” showed up. The first, “Patience”, hinted at an exciting new direction – it was visceral, less disembodied, and by Parker’s standards, felt almost unfinished. It’s not on the album.
The second single, “Borderline”, a thumping Tame Impala confection, deals with an awakening of sorts. After releasing the single (and performing both new songs on Saturday Night Live), Parker continued to fuss with it. The album version is denser, the vocals barely claw their way to the surface. It’s also the album’s strongest track.
The Slow Rush, which finally saw the light of day on February 17, has evidence of Parker’s obsessive mitts all over it. Fastidious doesn’t begin to cover his work habits. Writing, producing and playing every instrument, the album sounds gorgeous and expansive.
Yet, after five years in which a lot of things happened (including Parker getting married and narrowly escaping a wildfire), Rush could hardly be called a departure. It seems to pick up right where Currents left off. There are some interesting experiments – the mechanized opening track, a long suite called “Posthumous Forgiveness”, which serves as an open letter to his father. Yet neither are entirely successful. Despite the regret of “Tomorrow’s Dust”, endearingly sad-sack songs “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” or the brooding “Elephant” are absent. There’s a brighter aura among the album’s standouts – the loopy “Lost in Yesterday”, “Instant Destiny” ‘s Spector-ish pop, and the playful, pulsing “It Might Be Time”, (which manages to stay just steps ahead of Supertramp puffery).
His lyrics can veer toward platitudes, but they’re mostly about his now 33-year-old self. Other times they’re simply unintelligible. Parker is not prone to grand statements; his music is about mood. And his craft is undeniable. Parker toiled over every inch of this recording. It’s all there, the echo-laden mystery, the lush psychedelics, the same cheesy pop art cover. Yet chunks of The Low Rush pass by in a wash. It all seems all very familiar, and following the strength of his last two releases, lacking as much meat on its bones.
Parker is such a prodigious talent, it could be time for him to set sail into uncharted waters. We’ve seen what he can do in five years. Imagine the record he could knock out in two weeks.
Review by Jeff McCord, KUTX Music Editor