For having never touched a drug in my life (alcohol and prescriptions excluded), I’ve always been surprisingly in love with psychedelic rock. Maybe it’s its ability to transport you to another place, or just being heavily exposed to “Paperback Writer” as a young lad. Either way, nobody scratches my psychedelic itch quite like Tame Impala, Australia’s finest band.
Their newest album, Currents, furthers the band as not just a driving psych rock band, but just straight-up great at writing pop songs, leaving the psych rock estate to explore soul, 70’s AM radio pop, EDM, and more. It’s sort of their equivalent to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
“Let It Happen”, the band’s first single (which is odd considering its 8-minute length), is quickly becoming one of my favorite opening tracks of all-time. It’s basically their “Digital Love”, an electronic dance song that sets you off on a journey, making all sorts of exciting twists and turns. From the repeated synth riff that basically makes it sound like the record is skipping to the robotic bridge sung through a vocoder, the song transports you to island Tame Impala and leaves you never wanting to leave.
Beside the Daft Impala opener, Currents is wall-to-wall pop goodness. From the Lennon-esque ballad “Cause I’m a Man” to the near-perfect breakup song “Eventually”, front man Kevin Parker is making his mark as one of the best pop songwriters of the day. It helps that he lets his guitar do so much of the singing – from mirroring the melody on “The Less I Know the Better” to the gloomy guitar melody on closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” retracing his past slip-ups – Parker knows how to write a guitar part that is as sing-able as the vocal. The guy seemingly can do no wrong at the moment.
This type of follow-up isn’t exactly what makes a review royale interesting to read, because I basically agree with Wes completely on this album, even down to the rating. So I’m going to try and not repeat points like how “Let It Happen” (an easy contestant for track of the year), “The Less I Know the Better”, and “‘Cause I’m a Man” are fantastic tent pole tracks for an album that essentially doesn’t need tent poles; they are actually more like steel columns holding up a skyscraper. I’m also going to just merely gloss over how songs like “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”, “Past Life”, and “Reality In Motion” are great stand alone tracks that will get lesser attention for not being singles, but could easily be so on most any other album. And I will just ever so quickly mention that even the shorter, interlude-esque type of tracks such as “Nangs”, “Gossip”, and “Disciples” are all perfectly placed, pleasantly delightful tracks, that serve a greater purpose than most interludes, especially for a non-concept album. The album is perfectly intricate, detailed, and balanced. Upon listening, it honestly feels like your ear-gasming to the audio representation of vortex shedding that the cover art of the album so unabashedly preludes.
So why isn’t this album a 10 in my book? One word… “Eventually”. This is the one thing Wes and I disagree on. It’s not even that it is a bad track, it’s that to me (and for the purpose of a relevant analogy) it is the Wet Hot American Summer of tracks. It is so soaked in 80’s love ballad archetypes so thick that it almost pulls me out of the album. It is a good song, and very enjoyable to listen to, but I feel like it is such a parody of itself, so much so that I find it hard to take seriously. Especially when thrown into the mix of the rest of Currents pure psych-bliss. Now some may argue that tracks like “‘Cause, I’m a Man Woman” and “Love/Paranoia” slip into the same amount of over-saturated ridiculousness at points, but I argue that both those tracks, and every other track on the album for that matter, stay far enough away from the REO Speedwagon/Boston/latter-days Chicago characters, to the point that it doesn’t even offer up comparisons. Not the case with “Eventually”, and this becomes too much for me, especially at the very end of the chorus. Other than this small factor, Currents is about as near to a perfect album as they come in 2015.
My first time listening to Currents, I had it on as background noise while doing some other stuff. I thought it was complete garbage. This is not an album to gently cruise in the car or work to. Not that it takes much focus either; Currents just needs to be loud enough to hear what is good about it. There is some pretty dense pop instrumentation that deserves to be unraveled and enjoyed. So, my portion of this review starts with the title of my favorite Christian Slater movie, Pump Up the Volume.
Once you do that there is a lot to enjoy. I do not believe “Let It Happen” is one of those things. It infuriates me people are all over this one as “track of the year” or even just a great song. Wasn’t M83 doing this five years ago? And weren’t they doing it better? It’s not a bad track, and it has a nice climax around the five minute mark, but you have to wade through a lot of mediocrity to get there.
Other than that complaint, I think Todd and Wes are pretty spot on with most of their analysis. I’m a little less enthusiastic, but its a really solid album that has turned me around on Tame Impala as a whole.
Can’t Miss: “Let It Happen”, “Cause I’m a Man”,
“The Less I Know, the Better”, “Past Life”, “Reality In Motion”
Can’t Hit: (arguably) “Eventually”