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A Track-By-Track First Impression Of Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’

Written By Sam Murphy on 02/14/2020
Tame Impala

The long-awaited fourth Tame Impala album The Slow Rush is out. Arriving five years after the release of Currents, it marks the longest gap between albums in Kevin Parker’s career but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. In that time Parker has produced for Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Travis Scott and more while also dropping off a few singles in between.

One More Year

If the singles hadn’t already given it away, One More Year confirms that there’s a strong acid-house influence to this record. This is a sunny beginning to the album reflecting on easier times – “If there was trouble in the world we didn’t know.” A year later Parker is in the same place and wondering if they need to step out of their comfort zone. By the end he’s proclaiming, “We got a whole year! 52 weeks! 7 days each! 4 seasons! One reason! One year!” It’s Parker like you’ve never heard him before, embracing his inner-Primal Scream and it’s thrilling.

Instant Destiny

We keep cruising on at a carefree pace with Parker singing, “this traffic doesn’t seem quite as annoying.” Once again, there’s this feeling that he needs to break out of the routine and it’s addressed in this falsetto-laden chorus. This is a luscious production particularly when the strobing synths pop in during the tail-end.

Borderline

We already know this one but it’s been given an update so it’s shiny for the album. Parker seems to have added pan flutes which is a surprisingly welcome addition to the disco backdrop. Out of this and Patience, he definitely made the right decision cutting the latter from the record. This not only fits The Slow Rush‘s groove-heavy output but it’s also the most melodically interesting.

Posthumous Forgiveness

Here’s another one we’ve already heard. On its own it sounded like a psyched-up Zeppelin cover but in the context of the record it’s a welcome landing point after the elation of the opening three. Parker has actually never written a song that moves at such a glacial pace and yet it reveals some of his most considered songwriting. The emotive ending is some of his best work on the whole record.

Breathe Deeper

Where Currents went for delectable hooks, The Slow Rush so far seems to be more considered with slick grooves. Nothing feels purposefully immediate and that’s actually really refreshing. With its ’90s keys and intergalactic synths, Breathe Deeper is genuinely danceable in a ’70s disco sort-of-way. Parker gradually builds the song into something greater and the six minutes pass by without even noticing. There are some long songs on this record but it doesn’t feel like a marathon by any stretch.

Tomorrow’s Dust

Here we are with another uncluttered, percussive groove. Tomorrow’s Dust works you into a haze with circling guitars that are eventually drowned out by grittier guitars. There are strobing synths, keys, distant vocals along the way making it one of the more hypnotic moments on The Slow Rush. This isn’t going to be the one that sticks out immediately but it’s pleasant.

On Track

Parker is centred on the notion of time on this record. There seems to be either this lingering discomfort that he hasn’t done enough or a reassurance that things are going well. This one takes the position of the latter with some Lennon-esque writing. “Strictly speaking I’m still on track,” Parker sings of this imaginary goal that he has to reach. When all the percussion drops out and we’re left with organ it feels like the record’s moment of peace. It’s really cool to hear Parker pushing himself vocally like with his wails at the end of this. This album seems to be driven by this need to try different things and he is.

Lost In Yesterday

We’ve heard this one but it’s the song that ties The Slow Rush to Currents best. It’s got the groove of songs like Tomorrow’s Dust but also the pop chops of The Less I Know The Better. After a few slower numbers it’s a much needed heart rate-raiser and perhaps one of the album’s shining moments.

Is It True

Based on the singles we really weren’t expecting such glossy, club-ready magic from Tame Impala but it’s a nice surprise. Is It True would shimmer under a disco ball with its hip-moving bass and perky synth work. Even Parker, who generally moves at his own pace, sounds animated, hitting the beat with vigour. This one’s great fun.

It Might Be Time

This one felt absolutely wild when it arrived but once again in the context of the album it makes sense. It’s winding, acidic beat feels like we’re heading even further into the wormhole that he digs throughout the album. Lyrically, we’re getting back to the notion of time and Parker reckoning with the fact that he may have to grow up.

Glimmer

We’re back in the club with Glimmer and it feels vintage. This is an instrumental track and sounds mostly like Parker riffing over an electronic beat which is not a feeling you often get in club music. This would make an excellent interlude at their shows – could Parker be planning costume changes?

One More Hour

That timer placed on himself on the first song is running out on One More Hour and he’s reckoning with the decisions made once more. There seems to be peace in the confusion here as he sings, “I did it for love/I did it for fun.” This is a grandiose rock song full of decadent crescendos. Currents ended on New Person, Same Old Mistakes. Interestingly, Parker seems reluctant to label these mistakes here. He’s comfortable to, “roll into another year,” as he sings.

Overall

Given Parker’s involvement in the hip-hop and pop world since Currents, we expected The Slow Rush to be more straight-forward than it is. There are definitely some nice hooks and nods to the pop world but Currents was a much easier record to swallow. It had big choruses and singalong moments with each song able to stand confidently on its own. The Slow Rush, on the other hand, works best as a whole. Thematically, it’s an exceptionally tight record, wrestling with the idea of time and expectation. He does that over a club-inspired, acid-drenched, psych-rock backdrop that boasts some of the best production of his career. It’s a strange, experimental album but from an act headlining some of the biggest stages in the world, it’s daring in ways we couldn’t have anticipated.