Kevin Walker’s Tame Impala are a psychedelic rock band from Perth in Australia, which is widely considered to be one of the most isolated cities on earth and the music certainly reflects that. The sound of the album is direct from the sixties, frontman Kevin Walker even sounds eerily similar to John Lennon on some tracks of the album. It is the sound of early Pink Floyd experimenting at the UFO club, or the Beatles beginning to deconstruct themselves on Revolver.
Of course, it is simple to sound like your influences but it is harder still to expand upon them, which is precisely what Kevin Walker and producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT) have achieved here. Synthesizers are the predominant instrument, which changes the sound subtly from the band’s debut album Innerspeaker which was very guitar orientated. It allows the musicians to focus more on texture, always an important element on a psychedelic record. This is shown aptly on the opening two, mostly instrumental, tracks ‘Be Above It’ and ‘Endors Toi’ (which translates from French as ‘Hypnotise Yourself’). ‘Be Above It’ begins with a voice repeating the title in a whisper which eventually becomes an unusual bassline for the song as Kevin Walker wails “that he can’t let them bring him down”. ‘Endors Toi’ is even more of a jam, and as the translated title suggests becomes almost hypnotic towards the end.
However the album really reaches its stride with the third song ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ (released as a free download earlier this year). The first half of the song is an almost perfect pop song, before it eventually dissolves into a restrained jam with the bass propelling it along, and synths echoing endlessly. It is then a home run of exceptional psych-pop songs until the end of the album. Highlights include ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ which is possibly the most accessible song the band have recorded so far and is almost entirely chorus, and ‘Why Won’t They Talk to Me’, a beautiful echo chamber of a song.
Kevin Walker is a man who writes songs only when entirely alone, and the lyrics closely reflect this imposed isolation. If the title of the album wasn’t a giveaway, then lyrics such as “He’s got friends, but they got fear, who don’t care too much if he just disappeared” most definitely suggest that this album is a hymn to being alone. The tone of the album is far from despondent however, it finds solace in being alone in much the same way it is advisable to be alone when listening to this record, not only is it a very much a headphone album but it is surprisingly an intimate one also. If you have the slightest interest in classic pop, even if the term ‘psychedelic’ sends shivers up your spine, you are still well advised to spend some alone time with Lonerism.