Release Date: Feb 14, 2020
Record label: Interscope
In the years after the release of Currents, Tame Impala's mastermind Kevin Parker dedicated himself to the art of the collaboration, working his magic on tracks by artists like SZA, Travis Scott, and Lady Gaga and even co-writing with Kanye. All the while, Tame Impala's fan base kept growing to the point where they were able to headline big festivals and fill stadiums. One might assume that Parker would latch on to the mainstream-friendly elements that seeped into Currents, double down on them, and join his friends in the modern pop machine.
Kevin Parker is consistently out of step with musical trends, and it's one of the best things he has going for him. Back around the turn of the '10s when bands like Cut Copy, Hot Chip, Foster the People, Phoenix, and M83 were tearing up the alternative music scene with neon, guitar-inflected synthpop, Parker and Company countered with groovy neo-psychedelia and hazy, Zeppelin-esque riffage. Tame Impala's work was all the better for it, as they proved to not only be a diamond in the rough of indie rock, but of music in general, with their masterful 2012 sophomore effort Lonerism.
For Kevin Parker, perfectionism is a lonely thing. The fastidious Tame Impala mastermind often copes with his self-isolation and doubt through stonerisms, highly portable mantras like "let it happen" and "yes I'm changing" and "gotta be above it" (said three times fast to ward off bad vibes). Their inverse is the negativity Parker's trying to keep at bay in his head: "It feels like we only go backwards," "But you'll make the same old mistakes," "You will never come close to how I feel.
Few artists in recent memory have developed as strong a musical stamp as Kevin Parker. Over 10 years and now four albums, the reluctant genius has created an oft-copied, rarely-equalled niche, updating a decades-old genre and splicing it with enough modern flourishes to occupy a space entirely of his own. To be "a bit Tame Impala" is now a universally-understood descriptor, a succinct byword for smart, multi-layered psych-pop symphonies - the kind built equally for hazy summer evenings, late night headphone moments and, increasingly, the dancefloor.
£41. 25. You’ll know, because you were there, that this was all it cost for two tickets – with unnecessary cancellation protection – to see Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala at the Brixton Academy in 2012, before the world ended (as Nostradamus predicted) and we were thrown headlong into a dark multiverse, surrounded on all sides by visions of Donald Trump in the White House and bat flu and Brexit.
A slow and vastly detailed adventure. It's not much of an exaggeration to call Currents one of the most important and seminal rock albums of the last ten years, but then, Tame Impala's influence as a whole has been wildly acknowledged and applauded ever since their inception way back in 2008. Kevin Parker's penchant for washy, colourful psychedelic soundscapes and distinctly retro production choices - which hearken back to the root of 60's psychedelic rock - have played a large part in making Tame Impala the household name they are today. Of course, it's plain to see that rock music has always been a veneer of sorts, to hide Kevin's other musical passion: pop music.
The Perth-based artist's career has seemingly been fixed on a turbo-charged trajectory since Innerspeaker's breakout success back in 2010, collaborations with artists such as Mark Ronson and a cover from Rihanna resulting in a stream of mainstream hype alongside a sea-change in direction. Tame Impala 's journey from nascent open-ended pomp into radio-friendly reliability reaches effective, perhaps inevitable, completion on The Slow Rush - fragments of the act's earlier incarnation returning at brief but increasingly scarce moments. With recording divided between LA and Parker's studios in Fremantle, this fourth album broadly sheds, without qualms, remnants of Tame Impala 's original neo-psych skin - supplanted with dancefloor-destined polish, the bankable and accessible embraced in totality.
Rating: NNN "I want to be a Max Martin," Tame Impala's Kevin Parker told Billboard in the lead-up to this fourth album. It was the perfect quote, invoking one of the most winning pop songwriters of the last few decades at the same moment he was poised to make his own crossover. In the five years since the last Tame Impala album, Currents, Parker has worked with stars like Kanye West and Lady Gaga, been sampled by rappers like A$AP Rocky, headlined Coachella and booked an arena tour.
Everything seems to be coming up Kevin Parker. Since his last album, 2015's heartbroken Currents, the Tame Impala leader has gotten married, had a song covered by Rihanna, collaborated with Lady Gaga and Kanye West, and headlined Coachella. Perhaps that's why he sounds so content on The Slow Rush, a slick and densely layered album that shifts away from the melancholy of Currents and tones down the woozy psychedelia Tame Impala are usually known for.
A round the time of 2015's Currents - the third Tame Impala album - mainman Kevin Parker described having an epiphany some time previously. Driving around Los Angeles on magic mushrooms and cocaine, he realised just how magnificent the Bee Gees sounded, emotionally and technically. Parker is an Australian man given to singing beatific, double-tracked harmonies in falsetto; he is also a studio nerd with a long and attentive study of psychedelia behind him.
T ame Impala, AKA 34-year-old Australian Kevin Parker, started out in 2010 as a home-recording, guitar-wielding psychedelic rocker, but 2015's Currents cemented his metamorphosis into an arena-filling synth-psych act whose tunes are covered by Rihanna and Arctic Monkeys. Along the way, he has collaborated with Mark Ronson, Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Travis Scott and now professes to be influenced more by pop songwriter ubermensch Max Martin than 60s wigouts. As ever, his fourth album - the first in five years - has been crafted, considered, then crafted some more.
If Kevin Parker appears relaxed, then perhaps that's because he is. The epitome of zen when onstage with Tame Impala, he's somehow managed to locate the fine balance between success and individual passion, able to please a global audience of millions while also - most importantly - pleasing himself. It helps that he's got a certain amount of power. After all, he's worked with Lady Gaga and Rihanna, and was able to tell his label that new album 'The Slow Rush' - Tame Impala's first since 2015's 'Currents' - was going to be delayed as it simply wasn't ready.
The Lowdown: Tame Impala's Kevin Parker loves hip-hop. You wouldn't necessarily know it from the neo-psychedelic, Lennon- and Zeppelin-referencing rock of his first two albums, InnerSpeaker and Lonerism. Nor is the influence glaring on 2015's Currents, an international sensation whose groove-heavy hits "Let It Happen" and "The Less I Know the Better" were heard everywhere from rock radio to the club.