written by Chris Familton
Perth’s Tame Impala have been widely tipped for great things since they first appeared in 2008 with their self-titled EP. Luckily, they haven’t rushed into their debut album but instead allowed their music to evolve and mature through countless live shows which have given them a stronger sense of direction and a wider sound to draw from. Innerspeaker is the culmination of the last two years work and experiences and it is an exceptionally accomplished album.
Tame Impala is essentially the vehicle for Kevin Parker – the primary songwriter, musician and producer of of Innerspeaker. Wisely he also allowed engineer Tim Holmes (Death In Vegas) and producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT) to add their sonic experience and skills to what is a gloriously widescreen sounding album.
The predominant feel of Innerspeaker is 60s/70s psych and prog rock where melody in both the vocals and instruments is central to the music. There are retro overtones to most of the tracks but they have a modern sheen across them that subdues any overt recycling of past decades. Labelmates Wolfmother have taken similar influences and gone overground with bombast and a lack of subtlety whereas Parker has chosen to float through the underground on a hazy, drifting cloud that embraces rather than attacks the ears.
Things warm up and the mood is established over the first few tracks with Desire Be Desire Go providing the strongest link to the band’s earlier songs that relied on strong guitar riffs and an infectious funk rock rhythm section. The first truly great moment comes with Lucidity, a song with an infectious chorus and a descending guitar motif that buzzes and crackles on the verge of glorious disintegration. That chorus is simple yet effective with Parker’s vocals blissed out and heavy lidded. Effects soak his voice in reverb and add to a dreamy weightlessness when he sings ‘Lucidity come back to me…’
Make Up Your Mind quickly follows in a more understated fashion, sounding like an afterthought, yet still perfectly formed. There is plenty happening in the instrumentation but it is finely balanced with interstellar guitars soaring left and right in the speakers while the bass and drums keep everything moving forward.
Obvious influences like Pink Floyd, Cream are heard throughout Innerspeaker but there are nods to more contemporary bands like Tortoise, High Llamas and Flaming Lips in the exploratory structures and palettes of sound that Parker has used. The opening notes of Bold Arrow of Time even cheekily echo Hendrix in sound and melody.
Parker’s vision for Tame Impala is most fully realised on the epic Runway, Houses, City, Clouds. It is here that he shows his hand with pulse-quickening tempo changes, over-the-top 70s keyboards and a terrific bassline that wobbles and twitches in an incessant groove. When the band descends from its manic, euphoric rush into the tripped out lounge jazz of the outro you really hear the expertise at work. It doesn’t sound like kids showing off their playing skills but rather controlled genius serving the song and letting it run it’s intended course.
Tame Impala have taken from the past, updated and reinterpreted it for modern ears. They display a maturity in composition and playing that you wouldn’t expect in this day and age of pop songs and ‘return on investment’ attitudes by the remaining record companies. Parker has hinted that this may be the culmination of his vision for Tame Impala so it will be fascinating to see whether international accolades tempt him to repeat his magical formula or if he will follow his muse to different pastures. Either way, music listeners will be the greatest benefactors.
This review first appeared on FasterLouder