Album Review: Tame Impala – ‘The Slow Rush’

A meagre five years on from the juggernaut that is Currents, the ever changing and ever developing Tame Impala have returned with their latest album, The Slow Rush.

This was a decade of change for Kevin Parker and Tame Impala. Emerging from the obscure in the late 2000s, Parker presented a smattering of home recordings to the world, and the world started to listen. Pushing through the decade, Tame Impala began to dominate, becoming both kingpins and pioneers of the psychedelic rock scene, and being one of Australia’s hottest exports – the first in a long line containing the esteemed Pond, Sticky Fingers, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Image courtest of Venla Shalin/Redferns.

Following the releases of the iconic Elephant and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards on 2012's Lonerism, Tame Impala took it up another level. Alongside a huge sell-out show at London’s Alexandra Palace, the band released Currents. Initially a slow burner for some, Currents became a critical and commercial success. If anything, letting it sit undisturbed for four years has left it tasting even more sweet, with its memorable hooks and iconic intros sounding as good as ever. Despite taking a break from the super-project that Tame Impala had become, Parker began to dabble across genres; he co-produced dreamy rap track SKELETONS alongside Kanye West and Pharrell Williams on Travis Scott’s number one album Astroworld. Alongside writing this ode to autotune, Parker expanded his range by collaborating with friend and producing legend Mark Ronson on three tracks all special in their own right.

In the current moment, The Slow Rush is upon us. Recorded in both Parker’s hometown in Australia and his Los Angeles studio, The Slow Rush begins to play with genre in a way infrequently seen from Tame Impala, who have fast become a one-man band. While the 2010s brought a lot of change for the Aussie rockers, one thing remains the same: that Kevin Parker is a mastermind.

'Parker is a great tinkerer, a perfectionist, and a master of his craft; if Parker says an album is not ready, it is simply not ready'.

Unlike the rousing Let It Happen, which kick-starts previous album Currents, The Slow Rush saunters into life with One More Year – an adrenaline filled sketchbook of a song, which feels more like a collection of Parker’s thoughts and emotions about the album as much as anything else. Initially intended for April 2019 release, it’s no secret that the release of this album has been grossly delayed. Parker is a great tinkerer, a perfectionist, and a master of his craft; if Parker says an album is not ready, it is simply not ready.

Third track Borderline was one of the lucky singles to make the cut, considerably more souped up than its previous self and, in my (humble) opinion, a shadow of its former self. Despite this, Borderline remains driven, exciting and almost conversational, as Parker leaps between low and high calls and responses throughout (‘Will I be known and loved/Is there one that I trust’). It strikes me as being Parker’s post-Mark Ronson creation, an answer to Daffodils and its notoriously chunky basslines. It is believed that, following a listening party in November, Parker felt the need to make serious tweaks to what was arguably the most attractive of the album’s teaser singles. With this more penetrating bass and harsher, thinner drums, Borderline slightly feels like it’s been shoehorned to fit the rest of the album. However, it remains a high point on the album and poses as a fascinating example of Parker’s creative progression and perhaps offers insight into what Parker views as a pop offering.

Likewise, Breathe Deeper feels like a breath of fresh air. A reminder of Kevin Parker’s natural gift for fashioning a genre mashup, flickering between enticing 90’s rave, piano and delicious synths has never sounded so impressive. Paired with a rollercoaster Daft Punk-esque final 60 seconds, Breathe Deeper sets the bar high in terms of creativity, and you wouldn’t be betting against Parker to maintain that standard. Following from this, Tomorrow’s Dust feels like the point where the album really comes together. Haunting and dreamy at the same time, the first few seconds wouldn’t be out of place on Childish Gambino’s revolutionary sophomore record Because The Internet. However, as Parker begins to layer the track as the minutes go on, you can’t help but feel that the track overstays its welcome at five and a half minutes in length.

It Might Be Time serves as a mild throwback to Lonerism with thrashing psych-rock riffs, yet also offers a glimpse to the present with Parker’s punchline lyrics (‘You may as well embrace it’). Certainly, it’s one of Parker’s more interesting creations, with Kill Bill-esque sirens and an unsettlingly abrupt ending, framed as even more striking given its transition into Glimmer. A return to the rave-styled pianos, Glimmer is once again a segway into the world of dance and pop; it’s house music, but experienced through Parker’s eyes.

'A reminder of Kevin Parker’s natural gift for fashioning a genre mashup, flickering between enticing 90’s rave, piano and delicious synths has never sounded so impressive'.

Lost In Yesterday is a clear high-point on the album and a perfect example of how Parker’s work can often be challenging to initially appreciate. At a first listen, the track felt dated and heavy, but equally it’s a track I can’t see Parker excluding from the live shows. Come festival season, Lost In Yesterday and its quirky 80s basslines will be a deserved hit, no doubt leaving teenagers across the country in a weird state of nostalgia for an era in which they didn’t exist.

Detailed, observed, reworked, and relentlessly creative, The Slow Rush is an incredible fourth offering from Kevin Parker and Tame Impala. A far cry from the Aussie dreamer’s days of churning out hazy home recorded riffs, Parker has once again evolved and produced perhaps his most intriguing project to date. Following the vast success of previous record Currents, whatever Kevin Parker produced next stood a high chance of looking inferior. However, The Slow Rush is here, and while its success may only be revealed with the passing of time, his precisely crafted visions and unrivaled creativity has reminded the world why Kevin Parker is one of the most sought-after producers on the planet.