It’s official: Kevin Parker is a mastermind.
Now that he’s three blissful studio albums in, the greater indie population that closely follows his kind of psychedelic wanderings can now cement his musical genius status.
There is a feeling that everyone already did that, though. Parker’s project, Tame Impala, has brought purely psychedelic rock to the forefront of music hobbyist culture better than any band in the last decade. What “Currents” does is present an addendum to that declaration: Parker is great at what he does, but he’s also not destined to be remembered as a one-trick pony.
What he does is create things like “Innerspeaker” and “Lonerism,” two albums that were heralded as holy works by the type of festivalgoers that would be in the park’s rave tent until they were sober in the morning. “Lonerism,” an album that, by all means, is a better, heavier, more flourishing continuation of “Innerspeaker,” took inspiration from the late 1960s and near effortlessly manifested itself into today’s college radio playlists.
Parker could have done that sort of thing for the rest of his life and retired into music’s legendary pantheon comfortably enough. But looking back at his discography now, it’s hard to see the very pop-based style of “Currents” coming out of the blue.
Then “Let It Happen,” perfectly positioned as the first track and first single off of “Currents,” hits. Anyone who was affected enough by Tame Impala’s other works to keep tabs on the band should have heard “Let It Happen,” or possibly singles “Eventually” and “‘Cause I’m a Man,” tons of times by now. That’s because they’re excellent examples of how Parker has blended pop into his traditional sound without becoming played out.
Reviving a band’s sound by throwing other genres into its next album is a formulaic trick that usually puts artists in one of two camps: the lame or the unintelligible. Doing it with dance and synth is even worse. But the songs on “Currents” hit like a pulsating smack of bass guitar to the face as required entry to the club. There’s no clear, concise answer as to which of the album’s singles are the best – though, a hint: It’s “Let It Happen,” the rightful song of the summer. But, as a group, they serve as the strongholds of “Currents” all the better.
As intricate as it is, there’s one distinction that can be made of “Currents” from the first listen: It features Parker’s best production work yet. The tracks, from beginning to end, flow together near seamlessly with the types of instrumentals that are going to be hard to recreate on the concert stage. That’s where the pop stuff comes in handy – among hooks and grooves like these, the crowd will not only be on its feet, but will inevitably expand its ranks.
“Currents” is a brilliant move for the on-the-road Tame Impala. But “Currents” has some notable flaws under its psyched-out cover – in fact, it may be Tame Impala’s weakest among three great efforts.
As impeccably as it flows as a united collective, “Currents” has notable downtime. That’s because of songs that feel like lesser comparisons to the monstrous singles: “The Less I Know The Better” has “Let It Happen’s” bass, but without the complexities. “Yes I’m Changing” serves as a weaker sibling to the astounding power-ballad message behind “‘Cause I’m a Man.”
It’s hard to say whether the album’s first half or second half hits harder – both have their scattered highs, but also pieces like “Disciples,” a song that disappointingly wraps up its melody before it even meets the two-minute mark. Where “Lonerism” uses its powerful singles to mold the rest of the album’s strengths and weaknesses, “Currents” lets its lower points dangle by the thread of “Let It Happen” and the few songs that rival it.
Tame Impala’s transformation, to put it succinctly, is splendid. Coming off “Lonerism” and the epic hold that songs like “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” had on even the radio population, one had to wonder how Parker would respond to overwhelming expectations. “Currents” was hard to predict, and in the same nature, is hard to fully comprehend and digest out of the gate.
Parker isn’t the kind to delve into his personal life or his position in the musical world for introspection, but he is apparently the kind to try reinventing the wheel – the wheel, in this case, being the cycle of pop that makes the world go round.
– Sebastian Torrelio