If you find yourself in the ceiling-staring days after a breakup you’ll probably hug tightly with both arms Tame Impala’s new album Currents. The Australian psych-tinkerers return with their third album, a sort of wilting comedown after hours of tripping.
On opening track, “Let It Happen,” Kevin Parker sounds vulnerable and weak in the knees. “All this running around,” he sings, “bearing down on my shoulders.” He seeks stability in a world passing him by.
Four minutes in the song skips like a scratched CD, nearly to the point of annoyance, until a luscious, drooling synth creeps in and revives the beat. The trick is meant to fuck with the listener’s head and it does, like an extended EDM crescendo, but the anticipation of any kind of “drop” is dimmed with only a pregnant pause, then a snare crack. The enchanting rhythm is regained and the song continues on like nothing happened, journeying through a Pac-Man maze in space.
The tremoloing seawater of “Nangs” washes into the canals of your ears, making you wonder, Am I dreaming? Then a drop-dead gorgeous drum beat fixes into place and the follicles at the back of the neck start to dance, hand-in-hand. The groove on “The Less I Know The Better” is something to cry over. Parker attempts, through the bars of a rhyme, to persuade the one he loves to leave her current flame.
Currents is all psychedelic atmospherics, waves of grooves colliding, synths eating each other alive. It’s an emotionally more dense album than their first two, Innerspeaker and Lonerism.
The first song to successfully break through the trance is “Yes, I’m Changing.” Parker deals with the heartbreaking realization that his relationship is long-dead. He’s haunted by the discovery that his love isn’t the one for him. “They say people never change,” he sings, “But that’s bullshit / They do.”
When I first heard these lyrics it made me groan with its ultra-simplicity, like some scripted dialogue in a bad TV romance. But, it’s these same lyrics, pumped with the song’s rhythm, that had me singing out loud days later with infectious irritation. Now, I look forward to the song.
Not every song here is great. “Disciples” passes by without much thought and “Eventually” beats the schmaltzy, way overused chorus into the ground. Sometimes the keyboard atmospherics sound chincey, weak-kneed. Currents uses all the sweet-spot-hitting psychedelic tricks, but lacks the muscle and expansion of their debut, Innerspeaker. Released in 2010, it’s one of the finest musical pieces to accurately claim the label psychedelia.
The final song, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” is new void unto itself, a separate entity from the rest. The bass burbles up like bubbles in a humid swamp. Parker finally, fully transcends himself, detaching the cord from all earthly ties. “Finally taken flight / I know you don’t think it’s right,” he sings. Later he acknowledges, “I feel like a different person.” There is a clearing and Kevin Parker is taking it.