A psychedelic trip into the mind of Kevin Parker
The latest album from Tame Impala, the recording project of Australian multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker—one of the most pre-eminent rock figures of today, comparable to the Arctic Monkeys two years ago with the release of AM—is nothing short of brilliant.
A transitional record in every sense, Currents finds Parker exploding under the weight of the pressure from 2013’s Lonerism into another universe altogether—one filled with snappy bass lines, vocal harmonies, and poppy hooks. In short, Parker has gone from an introvert to an extrovert—a guy in his room with a guitar to a glittery, shiny pop star. And it shouldn’t come as any surprise. Tame Impala burst onto the scene in 2010 with Innerspeaker and quickly became the modern kings of psychedelic rock. 2013’s Lonerism rocketed them into further crossover territory with massive hits “Feels Like I Only Go Backwards” and “Elephant.” Earlier this year, Parker appeared on three tracks on Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special (ever heard of a little song called “Uptown Funk”?). But Currents might be Parker’s biggest statement to date.
It begins with “Let It Happen,” a nearly eight-minute-long rollicking track that draws some of its influences from Electronic Dance Music. What follows is a psychedelic—and yet so groovy you could imagine almost every single track on the radio—trip into the mind of a man much more interesting than the introvert in his room with a guitar: a man whose entire world has been catapulted into the stratosphere and who is trying to come to terms with it. “Yes I’m Changing” is a call to action: “There is a world out there it’s calling my name.” And he delivers. Tracks like “The Moment” and “The Less I Know The Better” show off Parker’s ear for crafting perfectly structured pop songs that are ready to be consumed by the masses, while the heartbreaking “Eventually” and introspective “’Cause I’m A Man” find Parker inescapably collapsing into himself.
The transitions are spot-on and some of the only moments Parker picks up his old friend the guitar on Currents, particularly on the minute-and-forty-nine-second-long “Disciples,” which is the most Tame Impala-sounding track on the whole album. Things get weird on “Past Life,” when Parker sheds his Lennon-esque falsetto for an electronically pitched-down spoken word section that is reminiscent of some of the antics of Canadian indie-rock goofball Mac DeMarco—the two have been spending some time together. The album ends strongly with “Reality in Motion,” “Love Paranoia,” and the hopeful “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”
Parker believes that life is a process of constant reinvention: “They say people never change, but that’s bullshit, they do,” he sings on “Yes I’m Changing.” With Currents, he takes everything that was central to the Tame Impala project and adapts it to the changes in his personal life, the expectation that has come with his burgeoning success, and the current changes to how we experience music—and blasts off into uncharted territory.