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Tame Impala
The Slow Rush Cal Cashin , February 24th, 2020 09:53

The latest from Tame Impala lives up to its crushingly uninspiring title, finds Cal Cashin

It took Kevin Parker five years of reclusive writing before The Slow Rush was ready for human consumption. His group Tame Impala started off at the dawn of the 2010s as a charming psych-revival curiosity, but second and third albums Lonerism and Currents saw the group slowly mutate into something far bigger; an escapist pop act capable of headlining festivals.

Notoriously, Parker is one of these musicians that spends literal years labouring over fine details to ensure everything is the best it can be. He rigorously considers every single drum sound, piano loop, and vocal texture, and pours unimaginable quantities of energy into the signature Tame Impala sound. Parker is clearly a talented producer, and has shown in the past that his musical graft often reaps satisfying melodies. It is this perfectionism that defines 2015’s smooth-but-insubstantial Currents, and new LP The Slow Rush is certainly cut from the same cloth.

So that begs the question; if Parker is such a perfectionist, how come all of his songs are fucking terrible?

Tame Impala frustrate throughout The Slow Rush. Whilst Parker’s talents as a producer certainly flicker throughout, his limitations as a songwriter prevent any songs on the record from really catching light at any point. The Slow Rush is background music, it’s supposed to bring good vibes but it dims every room that it is played in.

There are certainly signs of promise: the organ textures and sunken melodies of ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’ are enjoyable, and the zapping lounge-funk of ‘Lost in Yesterday’ kinda pops off in spite of Parker’s limitations as a frontman. The production on these two numbers is enjoyable, and harks back to the early parts of the 2010s, where Tame Impala records were never dull. However, these moments are fleeting and there can be no mistake about it. The Slow Rush is a record as dull as its name.

Indeed, there can be no question that Parker has many talents as a melodic voyager, a musician or a producer. However, for the most part, frustratingly, Parker’s waste of these talents is akin to Dorothea Tanning using her skill with a paintbrush to become an interior decorator.

‘One More Year’, the album’s opening crawl best encapsulates the frustration of the album. A relatively satisfying synth line and rippling non-lyrical vocals fill the intro, before Parker’s nasal voice wafts in and the track fills slowly with more layers that add very little. Often interesting musical ideas are quickly swamped by boring vocals, and fleeting grooves leave as quickly as they enter.

Parker’s voice and lyrics have always held back the interesting and transportative moments on Tame Impala records. However, it feels like on ‘One More Year’ and the rest of The Slow Rush, the voice is more irksome than ever before and the lyrics are a clumsy afterthought. There are no shortages of lyrical mis-steps.

“We’re stuck on a roller coaster going loopedy loop”, sings the nose of real life human adult Kevin Parker on ‘One More Year’. It’s strange that for someone that spends so much time working on fine details, the lyrics are of such a low quality that they actually stand out. As mid-album filler ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’ lumbers over, the Australian sounds like a primary school slam poet slinging a rhyming dictionary. He mumbles: “Sympathy for the fauna, fragile life in the sauna”. There’s a whole lot of nothing.

There should be more to admire about The Slow Rush. But ultimately it’s just so boring. Tracks like ‘It Might Be Time’ and ‘Instant Destiny’ typify this; Tame Impala have just become genreless vibe music, with very little to grasp onto besides terrible writing and the very occasional synth sound. Indeed, this progression from their early psychedelic daydreams into wallpaper music began on ‘Currents’, but at least the songs on that album developed. The songs lack the imagination of ‘Innerspeaker’, and the constant left turns of ‘Lonerism’, without finding anything of interest to replace them with.

For those that need a bit of background music The Slow Rush is a competent record, but it’s impossible to actively listen to it for a prolonged period of time without despairing. At least now that this is out, there probably won’t be another one for a few years.

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