“I’m most creative when uncomfortable”, says Kevin Parker, regarding his much-awaited album The Slow Rush, “like getting high in public.” For an album even more entrenched in its own dreamy psychedelia than the rapturously received Currents five years prior, these words are perhaps fitting. Tame Impala, a one-man multi-instrumental slash psychedelic rock technician, returns with what one would have hoped would be an almighty bang. What one recieves is an album which fizzles within its own hazy limelight.
The repeated motif of time throughout this record makes it arguably something of a loose concept album. By both looking back, and anticipating its consequences, Parker considers time through the lenses of nostalgia, forgiveness, degeneration and loss. ‘It Might Be Time’ is undoubtedly a standout moment of climactic excitement and chaos, in which Parker soliloquises about his confidence in his own artistic legitimacy within the music industry. The drum beat alone on this might just be the highlight of the whole album. The siren synths and cacophonous, distorted bass make you see how it took Parker “about one of… four billion years” to create this thunderous, hard-hitting, pulsating texture. ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’ is a track of particular emotional intimacy, in reflecting the passing of Kevin’s father and his failure to mend their relationship following his passing; “Just a boy and a father / What I’d give for another.”
These isolated moments, however, do nothing to add to the profundity, complexity or emotional poignance of the album’s subject matter as a whole. Repeatedly, you find yourself either raising your eyebrows at the genericity of the abstract lyrics, or else drowning in the sludge which is its reverb-infused, woozy and washed-out production. ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’ epitomises such shortcomings. Precisely half-way through these 57 minutes of drowsy meditation, it features a two-chord progression which is predictably lifeless and monotonous within an overall palate which lacks versatility. ‘Breathe Deeper’ reiterates this skeletal feel; refrains such as “Til the morning / Til the morning, oh / And the groove is low,” coupled with the unendingly jarring itchiness of Parker’s dreary falsetto, are just as empty as many other verses across the album. It seems to be an attempt to deal with ideas which are cryptic and sophisticated, but ultimately comes across woolly and lacking in substance.
This is an album which hides behind a hazy, psychedelic aesthetic and, in doing so, loses all versatility and spine. Listening to it is like attempting to observe a sunset through a kaleidoscope; any appreciation for potential beauty is lost beneath layers and layers of distortion.
Image: Imnotcmjames via Wikimedia Commons