Tame Impala: The Slow Rush review – A confusing pop palace

Fri, Feb 14, 2020, 06:00

   
 

Album:
The Slow Rush

Artist:
Tame Impala

Label:
Caroline

Genre:
Pop

The five years between the releases of Tame Impala’s Currents and The Slow Rush, have seen Kevin Parker become more vocal about his ambitions, which comprise “a lifelong goal” of working more within the pop field – a definitive cultural shift from 2010’s Innerspeaker.

That record mapped out a psych-rock sensibility, fermented in Perth, Australia. But Tame Impala have always been indebted to an American tradition of stoner-psychedelia, and now that Parker is firmly situated in Los Angeles, The Slow Rush looks to build on that influence.

However, there has been a moving away from guitars, towards something more electronic, which has the effect of both providing newer, unexpected textures – carrying on from the propulsive nature of Currents – but also getting left behind is their earlier vision of subtle beauty.

The concept of time weaves in and out, filtering into most titles of songs, and many of the lyrics, but the attendant soundscapes suggests a desire to shed that skin; the anxiety for the future, the fear of being stuck within nostalgia.

One More Year is a celestial, immersive composition, which relies more on atmosphere than lyrics, as so much of this record does. Instant Destiny has Parker’s vocals drenched in luscious effects, and interesting percussion, coupled with a louche wash. On Tomorrow’s Dust, it as if The Kings of Convenience are wilding out on a Casio keyboard, which complements On Track, with its wobbly beautiful piano, and a joyous Elton-John-Bennie-and-the-Jets moment – it is strung-out and masterful. Posthumous Forgiveness draws on Parker’s rich, sideways purchase on psychedelia – a squelchy, doleful reckoning with the death of his father. It has a leavening presence, perhaps because it rings so true amid much of the confection.

The confection is the work that threatens to upend the record: Borderline is all sugary pan-pipe pop; Breathe Deeper sounds like pedestrian 1980s r’n’b; Is it True is flat disco-centric bassline boogie; and It Might be Time brings to mind a flimsy Supertramp; album closer One More Hour, with its dramatic piano, sounds like an offcut from a glam-rock musical.

There are so many ideas at work – a maximalism in search of an editor, but when Parker edits, he achieves a kind of washed-out, blissed-up state of grace that flits between the joyous and the mournful, a symbiosis that has been at the core of Tame Impala’s potency.

The Slow Rush exists within a confusing pop palace, with the really interesting flourishes leaving by the back door, on their way to the dusty old shed out the back. It is the dusty old shed that could provide the material that returns Parker to himself.