The long awaited fourth album is another unique project from Kevin Parker filled with gorgeous production but reflective songwriting.
It’s been five years since a new release from Australian project Tame Impala and since then, mastermind Kevin Parker’s fame has soared. So anticipation was high for their fourth album considering that the release date was pushed back from last summer despite dropping two singles ‘Patience’ and ‘Borderline’ in the run up to their Coachella headline slot. However, as with every Tame Impala release, The Slow Rush is wholly unique in their discography as it shows Parker in a reflective mood about his career as well as experimenting and expanding Tame Impala’s sound. If their last album Currents was the transition between heavy guitar riffs into a more synth-based sound, then The Slow Rush is the satisfying culmination of this process.
The opening track ‘One More Year’ sets the album’s tone in contrast to ‘Let it Happen’ from Currents. A reverberating vocal snippet coined as the ‘Gregorian Robot Choir’ envelopes the track’s timbre while Parker sings about time running out in our lives but still using it to live life at its fullest – ‘We’re on a roller-coaster stuck on its loop-de-loop’ but we still have ‘one more year of livin’ like the free spirit I wanna be’. Although the melody isn’t an instant hook, the atmospheric production makes up for this and whilst Parker’s voice has always had an uncanny similarity to John Lennon’s which has diverged since Innerspeaker, I found it hard listening to the refrain when he shouts ‘We got a whole year/fifty-two weeks/seven days each’ and not think that it could have been ripped from Revolver or Magical Mystery Tour entirely.
Unsurprisingly, the production is immaculate throughout the record. While the overall soundscape in which the album encompasses slightly deviates from Tame Impala’s original sound, Kevin Parker still manages to use the instruments at his disposal in creative ways which taps into the world of psychedelia. On ‘Breathe Deeper’, the song briefly cuts to a lo-fi recording of some sort of alternate version for 20 seconds – like being sucked into a parallel world – before jumping back to the original and climaxing with a heavy guitar loop that cuts right through the instrumentation. Likewise during the slow ballad ‘On Track’, the chorus theatrically culminates with loud warped synths and a Hammond organ as though a moment of ecstatic euphoria washed over me.
However, as aforementioned, The Slow Rush mainly entails Kevin Parker contemplating his life and the passage of time that has passed since the enormous success of Currents, which is expressed through his thoughtful lyrics and how most of the album consists of Parker experimenting with each song idea which can lead to tracks lasting between 5-7mins. If you’re looking for instant catchy hooks like ‘The Less I Know the Better’, ‘Elephant’ or even ‘Eventually’, then prepare yourself to feel slightly disappointed. Take ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’, which deals with time introspectively as Kevin sings how ‘the day will come and then it will pass’ and how ‘the air of today is tomorrow’s dust’, but most of the song is largely emphasised by instruments laying up from silky acoustic guitar into swirling synth lines which is very effective even without a memorable chorus. However, sometimes a whiff of self-indulgence can seep through with this method in tracks like ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’ that lasts six minutes and it grinds the album’s flow to a halt. Despite its lyrical content making it one of Tame Impala’s more personal songs – Parker speaking about the estranged relationship with his deceased father – the stale and heavy instrumentation leaves a longing desire for memorable songwriting. This is only improved by the track’s second half but even so, two completely different songs moulded into one sounds inventive but mainly tedious in practice.
However, when Parker’s songwriting is in synthesis with the gorgeous production on this album, it’s an unstoppable force. On ‘It Might Be Time’ when Parker is singing about facing your own inner paranoid thoughts, it’s bombastic drums blast through the chorus along with sirens wailing to a refrain of ‘it might be time to face it’ – it’s scintillating, epic, and infectious stuff at first listen. On ‘Instant Destiny’, my favourite track from the album, waves of trumpets and electronic synthesisers accompany its ear-worm chorus about his wife Sophie (‘I’m about to do something crazy, no more delayin’) that left my head slowly bopping to its cymbal-crashing beat. ‘Lost in Yesterday’, with it’s funky bass line and lyrics about letting go of bad memories because they have been dug up ‘like Groundhog Day’ that sounds very familiar of ‘The Moment’, I still found my ears utterly entranced by it’s layers of vocals and addicting vocals.
Listening to this album can feel like lying on an Australian beach with a glass of red wine and watching the sunset amongst the horizon, which is not normal imagery to have with any Tame Impala record. But with The Slow Rush, Kevin Parker wants us to be in that relaxing mindset as he opens up to the listener on his most personal record to date. It’s another brilliant album from Kevin Parker but how it will hold up against his discography is still up for debate.
Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush is out now via Island Records Australia.