Album Review: Tame Impala – Lonerism
Psychedelic music has a knack for dividing the opinions of listeners, but Australian oddball Kevin Parker has struck just the right balance of poppy and proggy ingredients for the second album of his Tame Impala project. Lonerism merges ingredients of old-school pop music with a spacedust kick, mixing both styles to concoct a stunning, widescreen sound which fizzes and glitters in all the colours of a Raymanian rainbow.
Where 2010’s Innerspeaker was more direct in its throwback to the sounds of the ‘60s, Lonerism seems to draw from more modern artists in addition to taking influences from the mind-bending prowess of groups from the aforementioned era. Fans of The Horrors and The Flaming Lips will find much to appreciate here, and synths are now generously splashed across the soundscapes to add fresh shades to Tame Impala‘s already-considerable spectrum.
Such is the strength of the musical alchemy on display here that Lonerism never dips below enthralling. The opening moments of Endors Toi sound like engines cycling up in preparation for some extreme astral travelling, but Parker never lets the scales tip so far that things become too strung-out or stodgy. Instead, he anchors the music with strong, joyous hooks, keeping his feet on terra firma even as he lets his mind roam the clouds. For a case in point, check out the bass riff that struts through the chaotic carousel of Apocalypse Dreams, or the “she remembers my name” refrain of Mind Mischief, which recalls a Revolver-era Beatles after a particularly acidic binge.
Lyrically, Lonerism explores what is promised on the tin. The album deals in themes of isolation, alienation, and perhaps even a sense of helplessness at times. In clumsier hands, this melancholic fixation could have completely capsized Lonerism‘s light touch, but thankfully, Parker never succumbs to mere snivelling, instead imbuing his vocals with a poignant sense of wide-eyed vulnerability. At one point, he lets out a sigh of “but I don’t really care about it anyway”, yet it sounds like an attempt to convince himself as much as his audience.
The lyrics themselves are strong for their simplicity, and can be genuinely affecting in places, but ultimately, Lonerism is very much an uplifting listen. Parker’s lyrical despondency presents the listener with a companion with whom to explore this trippy light spectacular, and as the album approaches its central sequence, it all congeals wonderfully. Why Won’t They Talk To Me? is a towering, multi-harmonised gem, and the chorus of Feels Like We Only Go Backwards is so euphorically bittersweet that it’ll refuse to budge from your mind from the first listen.
Glazed with a busy-yet-digestible production scale (which bears the mark of Dave Fridmann’s mixing skills), this is music as vibrant and adventurous as anything else you’re likely to hear this year. Whether you’re a fan of pop, psychedelia, rock, or even if you just enjoy a good hook when you hear one, put some time aside for Lonerism. It may well be a late contender for that coveted album-of-the-year title.
“It’s a hypnotist’s arm, and it works like a charm.”