Kevin Parker has been one of the most underrated musicians in modern music despite having some of the most acclaimed music of the 2010s. He’s mostly been underrated due to the fact that a lot of people write Tame Impala off as a nostalgia-act, with even some of their biggest fans doing it. With Tame Impala’s second album, ‘Lonerism’ they pushed forward what they were doing with 60s psychedelic music into new realms creating beautiful and apocalyptic atmospheres with a mixture of synth, guitar and brilliant bass-work, with Parker exploring isolation and loneliness in his lyrics.
‘Currents’ marks a change for Tame Impala sonically and lyrically. The change is a signifier for the way in which Kevin Parker has changed as a person in the time since 2012’s ‘Lonerism’. A lot has happened in Parker’s life since ‘Lonerism’ and he’s had to adapt to not being such an introverted person, especially when things happen in your life such as travelling around the world and dealing with failed relationships. Bitter feelings occur in these instances, and it shows up all over ‘Currents’ in the lyrics with Parker delving into how he feels the need to stand up to a girl on ‘Cause I’m A Man’ which has the controversial lyrics ‘Cause I’m a man, woman/ Don’t always think before I do/ Cause I’m a man, woman/ That’s the only answer I got for you’. What was mistakenly interpreted as misogyny, is in fact both a bitter jab at his ex, and a simultaneous jab at himself and his floors; he mocks what it even means to ‘be a man’.
In an interview with NME Parker said ‘It could seem like I’m talking to a partner or a friend… But it’s really me talking to myself… To my old self, the part of me that wants to resist the change and stay as I am’. On the surface of this album this album replicates exactly what he’s talking about, it seems like he’s detailing so many different aspects of previous relationships like on the track ‘The Less I Know The Better’ which has him singing of someone he loves sleeping with another man, ‘She was holding hands with Trevor/Not the greatest feeling ever’ he sings to himself before actually giving himself advice concluding ‘I heard they slept together/ Oh, the less I know the better’. The album is literally him writing a note to himself, like on the fantastic opening track to the album which has him panicking about ‘all this noise’ that he feels surrounding him before telling himself to just ‘Let it happen’ because ‘It’s gonna feel so good’, or on the track ‘Eventually’ which seems to be a reassuring anthem. He sings the lines ‘I know I will be happier/and I know you will too, eventually’ in the chorus which booms in a way that sounds like he’s trying his hardest to feel at ease.
The story of self-doubt and worrying as to whether you should change and if so then how much, is backed up on this album with more clarity than on any other Tame Impala album. Where apocalyptic dreams flowed free on ‘Lonerism’, ‘Currents’ seems a lot more controlled and so much more clear in terms of production. On previous Tame Impala albums some of the panning was extremely odd and it almost enhanced the atmosphere given off by the instrumentation, whereas on ‘Currents’, the production is crisp, well put together and the instrumentation is controlled. There’s a massive reduction of guitar on this album and when it does show up it packs much more of a heavy punch like on the sinister sounding ‘Let It Happen’ which has an incredible guitar riff that sinks into the groove fantastically over the top of looped synths, pads and vocal samples.
‘Let It Happen’ is a fantastic opening statement for the album because of the fact that it shows that although Kevin Parker changed the aesthetics on this album, he hasn’t change his ability for writing extremely melodic and unpredictable songs. The song undergoes a complete change halfway through because a singular synth just starts tripping up and looping over itself with such ease. The song ‘Love Paranoia’ undergoes so many rhythm changes and hands out so many instrumentals that are given and then taken away so quickly, yet the song just remains at its core an incredible pop song. Kevin Parker also shows off the fact that he’s one of the most under-appreciated bass-players in modern music with the basslines constantly giving these songs unbelievable character.
Parker’s vocal delivery on this album is still constantly sieved through multiple effects, yet there’s a distinct tone to it that’s incredibly human and vulnerable. On the slower tracks like ‘Cause I’m a Man’ and ‘Yes I’m Changing’ his voice will prove divisive because of the fact that his falsetto can sound so thin when there’s such little instrumentation backing him, yet it lends so much personality and humanity to it that it’s encapsulating. The way his voice is often filtered through effects is used to the best of its ability time and time again like on the song, ‘Disciples’ — the one and a half-minute perfect pop song on this album — which has his voice all of a sudden becoming extremely clear halfway through the song to give it that bit more power when the instrumentation breaks out. Ironically the only time this project falters is on the track where Parker barely sings, ‘Past Life’ which is a spoken word song about meeting an old flame, which doesn’t quite pack the punch that the other songs do, despite being an interesting change of pace.
For the first time in Tame Impala’s career it feels like the band (or Kevin Parker) can do whatever they want because this is a near perfect transitional record into wider territory. The fact that like so many other great transitional records like ‘Kid A’, Parker actually details the waves of change that rush over him much like the title ‘Currents’ actually suggests. By the end of the album on the song ‘New Person, Same Mistakes’ Parker asks himself how he will now know what is the right thing to do now he feels brand new, before concluding that there are parts of every person that they don’t like about themselves and we have to deal with that. ‘Currents’ sees Kevin Parker make his most lo-key album yet while simultaneously making the statement about himself of his career.
Best Tracks: Let It Happen, Disciples, Eventually, Yes I’m Changing, The Less I Know The Better, Cause I’m a Man, Love Paranoia