Tame Impala: Currents

Aussie mavericks return – psychedelic synth-pop soul funk, anyone?

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Many a band claims to ‘defy categorisation’, but few actually manage to make a sound that seems so individual that they sit in a genre of their own. With this third Tame Impala album, mainman Kevin Parker has gone further than ever towards achieving that feat.

A warning, though: this is Tame Impala’s least heavy, least obtuse and most accessible record to date. It owes as much to Prince and Daft Punk as it does to The Flaming Lips or Forever Changes. But judged solely on its own terms, this is a stunning album.

You may well already have heard the opening track Let It Happen, which was streamed online back in the spring, but it certainly rewards repeated exposure. ‘I’ve heard about a whirlwind that’s coming around,’ Parker croons ominously. ‘It’s gonna carry off all that isn’t bound.’ That sense of unease adds a sheen of intoxicating other-worldliness to a somnambulent, trippy synth-pop tune, which channels 70s and 80s funk in the squelchy bass grooves and Parker’s creamy but slightly eerie falsetto.

Elsewhere, the sense of something conventional yet somehow subtly warped continues. Yes, I’m Changing is a supremely mournful piece, exploring the same lyrical theme of disconnection with your emotional roots. At first it sounds almost MOR-ish, but turn it up and you notice sounds of traffic in the background, as if a man were playing a gig on a freeway flyover. Very strange.

This album is unlike anything else you’ll hear this year.

Past Life’s vocal begins as a slowed down, echoing, distorted, crackly sample of a man talking about seeing a vision of _‘my lover from a past life’ _in the rear-view mirror, as a synth swirls away in the background. Then we return to more comfortable musical climes – or do we? Cause I’m A Man is a blissful soul tune at heart, yet it’s full of deliberately dated-sounding, parping analogue keyboards.

Now and again it gets a little too saccharine, as when Eventually’s gooey love ballad starts to cloy on your palate without the extra edges of intrigue found elsewhere. But for the most part it works magnificently. The funk bass underpinning New Person, Same Old Mistakes is offset by airy clouds of backing vocals as Parker coos a gorgeously resigned reverie of regret. Think of Air playing a 10cc song, remixed by Prince on the sweetest acid trip of his life, and you’re not far off.

Yet for all those disparate influences it fleetingly reminds you of, Currents is still utterly unlike anything else you’ll hear this year. As such, it’s a triumph, whatever genre you want to slot it into.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock