Tame Impala - Lonerism
Our separatist minds don't give pop music the scope it deserves. Though some may like to align themselves with sounds they perceive as avant-garde or experimental, the 'cool' and nuanced layer that distinguishes artists from the euro-dance of Lady Gaga or Pink is really a fig leaf covering basic pop structures. So don't call Tame Impala's sophomore album Lonerism psychedelic – at least don't limit it to just that. The influences from the Perth band's 2010's Innerspeaker are present and in abundance. But the focus has changed; existential emotions and branded reference points – it's unabashedly pop, in fact magnificently so.
Once again, the product is an extension of lead vocalist and creative director Kevin Parker's heterogeneous mind. Opening with the chant of "gotta be above it, gotta be above it" which is accompanied by the complimentary musical layers present in their debut, it would be deceptive still to state that Lonerism is anything more than just a chronological predecessor. The ideas are different, switching from strong primal sounds to strong melodic structures
Of Innerspeaker, Parker told Pitchfork "it was disheartening the way people only heard the 1960s thing" given that the album had a dual sonic projection: electronic sounds as well as the hard rock the 60s. But there can surely be no confusion on this record with the think layer of synths subtly appearing on nearly every song. Take lead single 'Apocalypse Dreams', starting with the unforgiving trudging of drummer Jay Watson's drumming that continues to the enchanting, electronic melodies.
But the more subtle divergence from Innerspeaker to Lonerism is the former's relative immediacy. Of course, it takes a while to fully grasp the scope of any Tame Impala offering, but with Lonerism, there is 'fullness'. Telling Spin, "I was more into sound's that beam over you than wash over you…more like an explosion rather than a wave." This is no more evident than with the bubbling ephemera of 'Music to Walk Home By', that transforms into radioactive synths and drums that sound illusionary. But as equally as they project sound, they can recline from it in the most disarming, melancholic fashion. 'Why Won't They Talk To Me' is a typical synth-stomp, but at the chime of 2 minutes and 50 seconds a captivating almost tactical loll occurs, stripping back to expose the album's delicate emotional undercurrent.
"I just don't know where the hell I belong," sings Parker on 'Mind Mischief' in his Lennon-esque drawl. At the lyrical forefront is Parker's ontological musings, encompassed by his state of Lonerism. For Parker it means a speculative pressure to fit in to the mainstream ideas of things but soon discovering that he's perhaps made for the periphery; a crisis of sorts that precipitates emotional push and pulls. 'Feels Like We Only Go Backwards' is perhaps the most tactile of the 12-track LP. With its familiar touch it's almost a pseudo-soul song: an oozing heavy soul chorus, fleshy backing vocals and a rewinding loop so hypnotic it's possible to get lost in it.
Hopping keys and voice wavering between baritone and tenor, on 'Sun's Coming Up', you'd forgiven for thinking that you're music player has unwittingly shuffled to some retro, kaleidoscopic Elton John. In fact you're still listening to Tame Impala, and that track moving from vocals into synths and shoreline sounds, is the closing song to an accomplished record.
"There was time to experiment and completely indulge" says Parker of Lonerism. Only two albums into their careers as Tame Impala, they've birthed a record on the precipice of their personal perfection. Not only do they quell doubter's claims that they are pastiche, but they do through musical dialectics: this is your criticism? Well here is our reasoned but impassioned response that needs no further questioning: Lonerism.