Midway through 'Let It Happen', the Herculean lead single and opening track to Tame Impala's third album 'Currents', you realise you're witnessing something special.
The track seems to start to jump, catching you off-guard. Your heart skips a beat in time with the song, before you realise it's actually a carefully crafted segue into the song's pulsating, propulsive latter half. The track itself - a sprawling, eight-minute odyssey through psych-disco - is so thrilling, so painstaking in its execution, that it sounds like the future being unmasked. 'Let It Happen' is a sure-fire candidate for the sound of the summer. Hell, it just might be the best track that Tame Impala's multi-instrumentalist and singer Kevin Parker has ever written. And after 'Feels Like We Only Go Backwards' and 'Elephant', that's saying something.
The way the opening track shifts and mutates in real-time betrays the overarching theme of 'Currents' - that of transience. Kevin Parker's current worldview is one in which the nature of the self is in constant flux. This central premise of change is perfectly encapsulated amidst the swirling, understated electro-balladry of 'Yes I'm Changing', with the heartbreaking concession that "They say people never change but that's bullshit / They do..." Against a backdrop of swooning synths and funk-fuelled bass, Parker casts himself as a winged butterfly emerging from a cocoon, now ready to take on the horizon, wistfully intoning "It's another version of myself I think I've found at last..."
The motif of change weaves throughout the threadwork of 'Currents', seemingly in stark contrast to the introspection championed by 2012's 'Lonerism'. But tellingly, elsewhere Parker is less convinced that chrysalis-like rebirths last forever: our old selves have a habit of catching up with us. On 'New Person, Same Old Mistakes', he wrestles with himself – both Jacob and God - each verse beginning with a statement of intent ("I feel like a brand new person"), before ending with a stern reprimand ("but you make the same mistakes") as he's consumed by a nagging self-doubt. It demonstrates that 'Currents' is less a tribute to progression than it is a homage to the myriad sloughed-off selves that reside in us all, lurking beneath the facade, ready to bubble to the surface.
While 'Currents' can be all too easy to dance to, at times it's a deeply melancholic affair. 'Eventually' deals with a fragmenting relationship, and the impossible hurt that comes with it, but ultimately 'Currents' is more than just a breakup record. The meticulously forged soundscapes are haunted by specters: not only of the past (the old flame of 'Past Life'), but of the self (the crippling self-reflection of 'Cause I'm a Man'). Preoccupation with change and impermanence is reflected musically as well as thematically. Notably, Parker relegates guitars to a mere footnote in the album's sophisticated sonic tapestry. 'The Moment' and 'The Less I Know The Better' are forays into psych-leaning disco, with the latter – meshing driving funk lines with Parker's soulful, slightly warped falsetto – one of the album's highlights. And it has the best intro to any song of 2015, period.
Tame Impala have often been labelled as pysch-rock due to the trippy and psychedelic underpinnings of previous LPs 'Innerspeaker' and 'Lonerism', but 'Currents' is at its core a highbrow pop record that defies any further categorisation. And that's almost certainly Parker's aim. With his uncanny knack of being able to conceal skyscraping pop hooks within the guise of various other genres, the album recalls early-MGMT and Foster The People. Though make no mistake: when Mark Foster and Andrew VanWyngarden listen to 'Currents', they're likely to feel more than a twinge of envy.
It's too early to say if 'Currents' will be the masterpiece that Kevin Parker is remembered for, but not too early to state that this is his best LP yet, a near-perfect album in a body of already remarkably impressive works. On 'Yes I'm Changing' ,he invites us along for his future journey: "Yes I'm changing, yes I'm gone, yes I'm older, yes I'm moving on / And if you don't think it's a crime you can come along with me..." On the basis of 'Currents', you should pack your bags and get ready for the ride.
Words: Benji Taylor
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