Genre: Psychedelic, Powerpop, Art Rock
Quite how Tame Impala managed to become platinum superstars in their native Australia is anyone’s guess.
2 years have passed since their debut album, Innerspeaker, took over the down under continent seemingly overnight, with its dazzling fusion of prog rock and space psychedelica. Of course, outside of Australia you’d be lucky to find someone who had even heard of them, let alone been one of the thousands who’d bought the album. But look anywhere and, even 2 years on, amongst the bizarrely fanatical Brazilian post-pubescants that seem to have glued themselves to the band, you’ll find that most of their (large) fanbase is still drawn from the source of mainstream, normal music fans. Rhianna, One Direction, Bon Iver, Taylor Swift… Tame Impala…
SOMETHING DOESN’T FIT HERE.
(it’s One Direction, they’re awesome.)
It would make perfect sense if Tame Impala created stereotypical, middle-of-the-road, made-to-please-the-masses pop music. But that is where everything starts to unfold and the delight of confusion sets in. Every few years, there are certain bands who get a short period of fame in their home country that makes absolutely no sense; Tame Impala in Australia is one of them (Muse is another example. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of them, their influence in the UK has been pivotal to progressive rock’s resurgence in popularity worldwide.)
See, Tame Impala make a kind of pop music. But it’s not pop music. It’s pop music in the same way that Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite is catchy pop music. Or in the same way that Harry Nilsson’s Popeye soundtrack was a pop album. In other words, they don’t fit into a category at the record store because they’re a little melting pot of everything.
But let us push aside the Beatles comparisons for a moment because, even though every mainstream media review speaks like Lonerism is the second coming of Revolver (and, while that’s not completely wrong, to compare anything to an album that changed everything is sacrilege), there’s one thing that Lonerism sounds a whole lot more like than anything else; Tame Impala have created something here that seemed impossible to recreate.
Todd fuckin’ Rundgren.
But not the songwriting genius of Todd from Something/Anything, not the half-hearted meanderings of his short-lived band Utopia, and certainly not the Todd Rundgren we’re left with in 2012 (which I refuse to accept exists)
No. It’s the i’ve-taken-5-acid-sugar-cubes-and-i’m-going-into-the-studio Todd Rundgren from “A Wizard, A True Star”. The same “A Wizard”, a near-perfect album, which was pretty much ignored completely in 1973 because it was so different. Well, it now has a son. A son born 39 years later, and it goes by the name of Lonerism.
To talk about the songs individually on this record would be missing the point; much like “A Wizard” it plays as if it’s a medley and, more importantly, it encapsulates a mood as opposed to being 13 seperate songs. That can, however, make Lonerism a very droning, claustrophobic, over-cosy listen. It IS same-y, in a similar way to Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Aufheben – whether you feel that’s important in the case of this album is another matter entirely. Don’t take that the wrong way though, if you were to drop your turntable needle on any groove you’ll find that it’s a treat, not a chore, to hear the sweeping synthesizers added to Lonerism, an upgrate from Innerspeaker’s no-synths approach. Or the incredible vocals that are eerily like someone overdubbed everything with John Lennon’s voice.
Or you might be treated to the final guitar riff in Music To Walk Home By, a tip of the metaphorical hat to Zeppelin’s Out On The Tiles.
Or the dancing sway of Feels Like We Only Go Backwards which could have come straight off Band On The Run.
Or the part-stoner, part-Marc Bolan stomp of Elephant.
Or the trippy, lucid repetition of Mind Mischief, recalling the 90s powerpop of The Posies more than anything.
Or, my favourite, Keep On Lying, an incredible cut that half way through drifts off into an extension of Tic Tic Tic from “A Wizard A True Star”.
However, the best way to experience this album is to press play and forget you’re listening to it. Let it go in and out of your hearing, don’t focus on it as 13 songs, and tune your brain to the mood of the album. In the proper way, somehow miraculously for a mainstream band, this is true psychedelica. You don’t need drugs to enjoy this music; this music IS the drug.
All in all, Lonerism is a more cohesive effort than Innerspeaker. The synths add a completely new dimension to this band, transforming them from Flaming Lips-type indie experimenters to… full blown psychedelia. I suspect it will turn many fans away.
Is it a better album than Innerspeaker? Only time will tell us. There are so many layers to Lonerism that it may be an inconspicuous grower. It may become album of the year, that much is possible. But, on the first week of listening, the sameness and monotony means it is an album for very specific moods. To quote Neil Young at the start of Year Of The Horse, “It’s all one song!” And that wasn’t a bad album either.
But, as far as A Wizard A True Star clones go, this is as good as it gets.
Lonerism is an enigma.
For fans of: Todd Rundgren, Paul McCartney & Wings, ELO
Released 8th October