Thanks to a Facebook post from my friend Matt, it has come to my attention that “Tame Impala is the Instagram of rock bands.” This comes as a part of a multiple-hundreds of words rant from this album review of Currents.
First of all, if you read it, Will Neibergall writes a solid review of the CD, and he makes a point that can be argued for or against. It’s short and to the point, and it sparked a good ol’ Facebook discussion that I’m sure my friend Matt’s going to be notified of for the next couple days. And it definitely has been getting it’s click throughs and complaints. However I’m here to deconstruct it.
“Tame Impala is the Instagram of rock bands.” It irks me to hear this bouncing around in my head. There are tidbits of the review and Mr. Neibergall’s analogy that ring true: “Instagram used to be strange.” Yes. Kevin Parker’s sound was incredibly “different” when Lonerism came out, and it no doubt had a huge effect on the “indie” music landscape. The part about the filters being used ad nauseam is also true, but only to a certain extent.
When we get past that extent of the “filters” analogy, the part where “your parents and grandparents signed up,” is where the review goes too far. To some, especially those that can pick apart Tame Impala in a strictly musical sense, then yes you might be sick of the Kevin Parker formula at this point, especially if that’s not something you want to emulate as an artist.
And yes, Kevin Parker has a formula for his music. All musicians have their own formula. Shall we dig back through all the bands in the 90’s that had a creative “formula” for their music and still produced good stuff? I’m not going to name any bands because I could name any band. Okay, Dirty Projectors come to mind. They have a very strict, recognizable formula. But nobody’s going to say that they suck just because you can recognize their “different style.”
Currents follows Kevin Parker’s formula that he created for his band, and what I think the whole instagram analogy misses is that he changed up the music behind the “Tame Impala filter” or whatever the hell you wanna call it. The drums are still compressed, just like the first two albums. The lyrics are still cliche and “suffer” from the same Beatles-esque singing style. And that “suffer” is a shot at that angry John Lennon note from the second paragraph of the Instagram article. Any who, finishing my point, the songs really consist of just a few chords and musically aren’t as complex as, I don’t know, a tUnE-yArDs song, who I’m sure could be subjected to the same criticisms of just putting a “tUnE-yArDs filter” on her music.
Just like any other Tame Impala album, Currents is pop music disguised as psych-rock with a bunch of synths and guitars fading in and out to form songs that’ll be a surefire hit with rich white festival-going suburban indie kids. And yes, we’ve already heard a couple of the singles on commercials. But what else are you supposed to expect? This is a classic example of a talented musician hitting the point where he (Parker) has made two relative masterpieces, and now faces the pressure of creating something that everyone expects to be a three-peat masterpiece. On top of that, he faces the pressure of changing his style up (as artists are bound to do) while keeping his music grounded. Which brings up this to think about when we listen to the new album — perhaps we’re too conditioned to pop music directly correlating to watered-down quality that we automatically assume a pop-ier Tame Impala album is going to be worse than the other two? Just thinking out loud.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that this is ALL Kevin Parker this time around (the last two albums were 90% KP, however production wizard Dave Fridmann put his final touch on the mix). Perhaps we’re too conditioned to pop music directly correlating to watered-down quality that we automatically assume a pop-ier Tame Impala album is going to be worse than the other two? Just thinking out loud.
Of course, this is an album review so I’m going to have to tell you about the actual songs on the album. Well, they’re good. Probably not as perfect as Desire Be, Desire Go was when I first clicked play on that Tumblr link. The singles are good, but you’ve already heard them. I personally thought “‘Cause I’m A Man” was corny when I first heard it however it’s been growing on me. “The Less I Know The Better” has twangs of Soft Bulletin era Flaming Lips. It really encapsulates the different influences that flow into Currents, including the weird 80’s bell-synth sounds, and the really funky bass.
Immediately after that is “Past Life,” which the album could have done without. It sounds like Parker got real inspired by the last song off of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and pitch shifted some weird story about going to the dry cleaners. But we’ll accept it as a creative attempt that fell a little bit short.
Again, it’s no third masterpiece by Parker. However even if it’s pop music, it’s Kevin Parker’s pop music, and you don’t see too many artists (even indie) that continue to grow as musicians and producers as he has continued to do.
And for you, Mr. Neibergall? I would sit down for a cup of coffee with you any day and discuss our bitter takes on life. And I commend you for writing an article so full of disdain about an album bound for success and indie superstardom, and being able to defend it and spark so much conversation. Also, you didn’t deserve that insanely hardcore TI fan who sounded like he actually wanted to murder you over a review.