I’m a little late in the game, but here’s my 500-words-or-less take on Tame Impala’s Currents.
I’ve been a fan of Tame Impala since 2010. That’s the year their album Innerspeaker dropped and established the group as masters of psychedelic rock. I listened to Innerspeaker on repeat, thrilled by its surf-y stoner vibes. 2012 then brought me sophomore effort Lonerism and with it more lo-fi guitar goodness. Lonerism’s mellow tracks earned it the new top spot on my playlist (though Innerspeaker still made frequent appearances) and I anxiously awaited the release of the group’s third album, Currents.
Imagine my surprise when I listened to Currents and heard disco instead of rock. I was almost offended by all the bass grooves; where was the guitar-driven fuzz of Innerspeaker or the atmospheric grit of Lonerism? This shiny-happy sound wasn’t at all what I had come to expect from the group and I wasn’t sure I liked it.
But upon another listen, Currents’ sound started making sense. Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker is a well-known musical scientist; he tours with a four-piece band but usually records albums solo which allows for creative license. His experiments in recreating synth sounds with the use of a phased-out electric guitar resulted in many of Innerspeaker’s tracks (like first single Solitude is Bliss). Lonerism brought explorations into vintage synth sounds and co-writing tracks. Currents, then, is just Parker taking his experiments in a funkier direction; it’s Tame Impala edge with a Saturday Night Fever base. And honestly, it sounds good.
The tracks are all fun to listen to. The grooves are clean and Parker’s lyrics sting under his instrumentals: They say people never change/But that’s bullshit/They do, he offers on ‘Yes I’m Changing.’ Personal favorite ‘The Less I Know the Better’ is the most blatantly disco song on the album. It’s bass heavy from the get-go with a storyline that hooks you in: She was holding hands with Trevor/Not the greatest feeling ever/Said pull yourself together/You should try your luck with Heather, Parker sings.
Singles ‘Cause I’m a Man’ and ‘Let it Happen’ show Parker evolving as both an individual and an artist: Like the burning autumn sun/It dawns on me, what have I done? he sings on the former, admitting his follies over quiet synth chords. The latter features a techno jam – a step forward from guitar blitzes of albums past – whose energy makes even stop-and-go traffic bearable. Both are well executed, though I think the layered vocals of ‘Eventually’ should have earned it a single spot as well.
Currents now sits next to Innerspeaker and Lonerism at the top of my playlist. It is different from Tame Impala’s first two albums but not at all in a bad way. The disco notes work here because they’re sharp, as should have been expected from Parker. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little funk, especially if Parker is the one bringing it.