Tame Impala’s new album anything but “tame”

Album art for The Slow Rush. Photo from Consequence of Sound.

By Rob Mohr and Mary Katherine Saye 
Executive Staff

MK: I didn’t really know what to expect when Rob and I decided to review The Slow Rush. Tame Impala can only be described as a psychedelic experience, and even that doesn’t do it justice. The “music project,” created by Kevin Parker, has hits such as “The Less I Know the Better” and “Let It Happen,” and his newest album The Slow Rush, is consistent to the style of these songs. The first song of the album, “One More Year,” contains an upbeat mix of electronic sounds and pretty relaxed electric guitar in the background. If the beginning has you anxious and uneasy for a minute, that’s the point. This song is meant to spark emotion rather than put one at ease. 

Rob and I both found “Breathe Deeper” to be another notable song on this album which is oddly reminiscent of songs from the disco era such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Similarly, “Is It True” sounds inspired by this era, especially in its bassline which is more prominent than what is usually heard in songs today. 

“Posthumous Forgiveness” is the most memorable song to me on the album because while the music stays fairly relaxed, the words are biting and offer an interesting contrast. Three minutes into the song, the notes that have been played repeatedly die away and the song shifts to a strange mix of electronic sounds. Then as quickly as they appear, they dissolve into the familiar tune of the beginning. One will either hate or love the creative technique Parker uses in this song, or they will understandably skip it altogether because it can be overwhelming. 

I wouldn’t say that I will start listening to Tame Impala because of this album. However, his music is unquestionably interesting and I am curious to see what he will do next. 

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Rob: I was a bit shocked to discover that it has been five years without a new Tame Impala album and even more shocked once I realized I was a sophomore in high school when Currents released. I remember being turned off by Currents because of its liberal use of synthesizers and conservative use of guitar, which I felt, at the time, betrayed Lonerism and Innerspeaker’s firmly psychedelic-rock sound palette. This album is not a radical departure from the sound pioneered on Currents, therefore the “rock” label is a tough one to apply here, but I have learned in five years that I should not hold that against Parker. 

The Slow Rush feels special from the beginning with “One More Year,” which according to Parker, features a “Gregorian robot choir” endlessly repeating the song’s title. This gives the song a reverent and expansive feel as if you, the listener, have come to pay respect at the altar of “vibes.”

“Borderline,” “It Might Be Time,” “Posthumous Forgiveness,” and “Lost In Yesterday” were all released as singles and are all excellent songs in the “new” Tame Impala style. “Borderline” was tweaked from its single release back in April of 2019, Parker told Australian radio station triple j that he especially wanted to emphasize the bassline in the new version. 

One minor drawback of the drawn out release of songs is that the singles feel a bit old. However, “Instant Destiny,” “Breathe Deeper,” and “Glimmer” stand out as hidden gems on the album. The percussion work on “Instant Destiny” is impossible not to nod along to and “Breathe Deeper” pairs a funky bassline with excellent vocals from Parker. “Glimmer” might be the dreamiest song I’ve heard from Tame Impala and its two minute length feels unbearably brief.

All things considered, The Slow Rush is a great release and whether it’s time or a change in taste, I can finally say I appreciate the more synthetic sound Parker has been championing. However, I can’t shake the feeling that ditching the instruments makes the music a bit more forgettable. Classic Tame Impala songs like “Mind Mischief” and “The Bold Arrow of Time” both have unforgettable sounds in their psychedelic guitar openings that leave a real impression. Meanwhile, many of the songs on The Slow Rush have taken a few listens to recognize from the opening notes.

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