Bass beats that get sucked under water. Slippery synths and skipping track clicks. A swirling eight-minute soundscape carried on funk rhythms and handclaps from across the universe. We’re only on ‘Let It Happen’, the opening track of Tame Impala’s third LP, and already Kevin Parker is going off on one.
If this sounds a little far-out, you haven’t been paying attention. Innerspeaker (2010) and more particularly Lonerism (2012) couriered this Perth Rembrandt to the Northern Hemisphere, dumping an Antipodean brew of Floyd, Beatles and Sabbath on to the alt-pop circuit. Track names like ‘Nothing That Has Happened so Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’ or ‘Endors Toi’ had to be digested along with smart, thermic and brilliantly performed psychedelic voyages. At the heart of it all was Parker, who played every note and twiddled every studio knob. “How dare he,” Wayne Coyne could be heard muttering darkly.
Who knows if any of this registered with Parker, who seems to be a very single-minded, if airy, individual. Currents finds him ditching the ’60s and heading off to the dancefloor like some midlife-crisis disco nut out to prove a point. But really it matters not one jot where he chooses to go because the 29-year-old has those basic condiments of pop in order – rhythm (you’ll rarely hear finer drumming and bass) and melody (mined by way a reedy John Lennon vocal that drills into the ears).
All 13 tracks here are animated entities, carved from the one futuristic palette (synth, korg, kitchen-sink production) but working off varying energies. ‘Nangs’ and ‘Cause I’m A Man’ are chillwavey sliders that would soothe singed brains at an Ibiza sunrise. Heat is brought by the likes of ‘The Moment’’s bubbling groove and vocal refrain (“it’s getting closer”) or ‘The Less I Know the Better’, a slab “dorky, white disco funk” (as Parker himself apparently described it). ‘Disciples’ is a jaunty and summery bopper (is that a guitar?), but annoyingly short at just under two minutes. You’d imagine ‘Reality In Motion’ working splendidly on an acoustic, stripped of its bursting synthesisers and het-up percussion. And sure isn’t that the acid test?
Not all of it is loveable. The mopey ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’ and ‘Yes I’m Changing’ overstay their welcome, while it can seem that Parker’s obsession with the sonic kaleidoscope lets some iffy lyrics (“She was holding hands with Trevor / not the greatest feeling ever”) slip through. That said, you’ll probably be too busy moving your feet and pondering the universe to notice.