First Impressions of The Slow Rush by Tame Impala

This is not a review.  As the title says, these are my first impressions upon listening to the new Tame Impala album The Slow Rush.  In my usual morning trek to work, I chuck on whatever latest release that peaks my fancy.  The last few Fridays have been slim pickins’, and surprisingly, I had been looking forward to February 14. No, not because I am anticipating Cupid to aim his arrow of love at my beating insides, nor because I am expecting the heavens to rain a dozen roses onto my lap.  But because the lead up singles Kevin Parker released, most notably Borderline and Lost In Yesterday, had me excited for the latest Tame Impala album.  A surprise for some, myself included, after I continually express my loud distaste for Parker’s last Impala release, the 2015 album Currents.  An album that had me teetering with tension as the clock ticked over to the release date after fantastic lead singles Let It Happen, The Moment and Eventually.  And like the latter single expresses, eventually Currents was released, and eventually I would realise it was a complete and utter disappointment – though it would take me a few weeks to decipher once I recovered from shock.  What I am trying to say in this long winded and wordy expression of distaste for Currents, is that context is important.  I’ve gone five years since the release of the latest Tame Impala album, only listening to Parker’s initial releases, the 2010 InnerSpeaker and 2012’s Lonerism – two of my favourite albums of the last decade.  Whenever I need my fix of guitar heavy tunes, phaser induced percussion and fuzzy riffs, I turn to the early Impala records.  I struggle to make it to the halfway point of Currents, and instead repeat the same three singles I mentioned earlier.  I was duped with Currents, a phrase I remember far too well from my initial review of the album all those years ago.  Parker duped me with the release of the album’s teaser singles, only to realise that his new direction is less guitar focused, relies more on his weak falsetto, and takes inspiration from more disco tunes rather than the psychedelics of the 60s and early 70s.   So it was a surprise for me when I found I couldn’t stop listening to Borderline, and Lost In Yesterday hit a nostalgic nerve in me as I focused on the lyrics.  And in doing so, I looked forward to February 14 for the release of The Slow Rush.

I won’t go into depth of every song, this here article is based off one and a half full listens.  I have come to terms with the band’s departure from their early guitar centric songs.  Even the best bands develop their sound as their career progresses, Tame Impala now turning the page on a decade of studio releases.  Of course, they need to grow and move on, I wouldn’t know if I’d still like the band if they were only rehashing the sound they made famous a decade ago.  *Insert Wolfmother joke*.  And it’s with this newfound insight that I listened to the opening track, One More Year, a psychedelic dance inspired tune with wavy, distorted vocal samples and a disco drumbeat.  The guitars are a thing of the past, as Parker embraces synths and dance-hall piano chords.  It’s a solid tune and I enjoy the build throughout its five-and-a-half-minute run time.  It’s not the same Tame Impala of the Lonerism days.  But you know, that’s alright.  Second song Instant Destiny relies more on Parker’s falsetto to carry the song, a trait carried over from Currents.  And though his vocals are much stronger than they were five years ago, it’s not a selling point if I were to recommend Tame Impala to the person living under the rock.  And as the album progresses, it turns out to be the most annoying, and in turn, weakest part of Tame Impala’s music.  Remember listening to It Is Not Meant To Be back in 2010 and wondering what the hell Parker was saying?  Or when guitar and drums were on equal levels to the vocals on Mind Mischief in 2012?  For many people that was a trait they’d like to see go by the wayside in future releases.  But for me, it was one of the many appeals of their earlier records.  Kevin Parker is not that good at singing.  And he would mask that in his psychedelic, phased-out, vocal effects and production techniques.  It worked for me back then and it still does now.  And it’s because of this that I get tired of listening to The Slow Rush by the halfway point. 

The singles released prior to the album are a welcome relief. Except for Posthumous Forgiveness.  That song is god awful and is six minutes long.  Another trait that doesn’t carry over too well in Parker’s latest attempts at song writing.  In the past I’d get lost in the psychedelic repetitiveness of fuzzed out guitar riffs for close to six minutes.  Now I find myself itching to change to the next song as we close in on the three-minute mark.  Closing tracks Glimmer and One More Hour are solid cuts, the former a disco dance tune with very little vocal influence.  It reminds me of a New Order song.  One More Hour is a seven-minute epic and is probably one of the most instrumentally dynamic songs in the Tame Impala catalogue, but by the time I reach the last song, nearly an hour has passed and I’m over the nasally falsetto refrains.  I expect I’d like One More Hour more if I listen to it out of context to the entire album, something I’ve found works best for the last two Tame Impala releases, and is how Parker has now duped me twice in a row with his Currents and The Slow Rush.  These are my first impressions on the album, based off one and a half full lsitens.  And all I can close with is that I got halfway through the album on my second listen and decided to listen to slowthai instead.  Take what you want out of that.   

*For historic context, this is written one day after slowthai made a fool of himself and nearly ended his career at the NME awards*

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