One of those bands that can tell you what their band name means, Tame Impala, named for the “tension between wild and civilized tendencies,” emerged in Perth, Australia, as pretty much the only psych-rock band on the continent to break out into the U.K. and the U.S. As any successful innovator will tell you, it’s all about finding a niche in society that hasn’t been filled yet. Now that the days of the Bee Gees, AC/DC and Jet are over, Tame Impala has stepped up to become Australia’s niche, and their next big worldwide success.
Fresh off their 2012 sophomore release, Lonerism, featuring one of my all-time favorite songs, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” frontman Kevin Parker took some time away from Impala to tour with his disco-funk side project, AAA Aardvark Getdown Services. A weird time in their ever-upward expanding fame and notoriety to drop out for a bit, Parker explained that the hiatus from Impala was due to his belief that, “there’s something narrow-minded about thinking an album is the only way you can put out music, especially in the world we’re in at the moment.”
While Parker didn’t go the Bjork route and release new music through an interactive app, the Wu-Tang route of selling one copy for $5 million that no one will ever hear until 2103, 88 years from now, the U2 route of forcefully inserting it into your iTunes library with a complex series of links to find out how to remove it, the Wayne Coyne route of releasing an EP through flash drives in little gummy people, or the Jack White route of hiding 100 old vinyl-45’s in furniture he made back when he was an upholsterer, he did eventually decide that an album was the way to go for releasing more Tame Impala music. “I’m getting more and more sucked into the world of making an album,” he said in an interview with Triple J Radio, “it’s weird how it happens naturally.” I’m glad he figured it out.
Getting back into the studio in the beginning of 2014, it took Kevin Parker, known as one of the largest perfectionists in the world of music recording today, a year and a half to finish Tame Impala’s 3rd release. Currents is more electronic and digital than the last, seemingly drawing inspiration from the more lush tracks off Daft Punk’s Discovery and most of Phoenix’s discography.
“I’m gonna try to make it a bit more minimal this time,” explained Parker back in 2014, “only use what’s needed … instead of a supreme pizza, where you just throw everything on.” Feeling like he’s, “channeling Supertramp,” Currents goes more dance-floor and sonic wall of synths then it does the usual Flaming Lips and My Bloody Valentine influenced Tame Impala, like that of their first record or even a bit of Lonerism.
Currents is all about change; from the altered-genre and Parker’s desire to hear Tame Impala music in dance clubs and more commercial radio, to the lyrical content, which centers around the process of personal transformation. The artwork works along the same theme, depicting the oscillating flow of vortex shedding.
Along with the concept of change, Currents also seems to give the inclination that it’s a break-up record. Most of the lyrics seem to definitely focus on a personal transformation, but from just looking at the track list, and possibly analyzing the presence of another character in the lyrics, the break-up record theory seems to fit as well. Nothing draws someone who sounds like they’re done with making albums, to making an album about a personal change and transformation, than a drastic change or revelation in the personal life.
Regardless if it’s true or not, the main theme of personal transformation is enough to be able to fully connect to the lyrics of the record. And that exact ability is the reason than Currents is such a fantastic record. Not because Kevin Parker can write Panda Bear / Beach Boys – esque pop hooks and choruses, or because the sound of Parker putting a phaser effect on the whole track, even the drums, their signature unique sound which comes back on track 8, “Past Life,” but because the lyrics and themes of Currents are universally relate-able, and the previous two reasons certainly help as well.
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