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A horse of a different color

Tame Impala’s ‘Currents’ is sad ’80s vibe

Elliot Bailey, A&E Editor
Originally published November 19, 2015

Album: Currents

Artist: Tame Impala

Score: ★ ★ ★

This whole thing is more furrowed than any of Tame Impala’s previous albums.

Deep into the first track (“Let It Happen”), the listener realizes “Currents” is a world apart from the Tame Impala they know and love. The warm summer days of “Lonerism” and “Innerspeaker” are gone. “Currents” is a winter night.

Lead man Kevin Parker has pulled his synth setup to the front of the mix in this series of kaleidoscopic slow jams. The result is a sedated and sometimes unambitious tracklist. It’s a big move and has rendered an album that feels out of left field in light of it’s rockier predecessors.

It really has slowed down, both in tempo and mood. And even quicker tracks like “The Moment” lilt in some sad, unifying way that is across the board on “Currents.”

Tame Impala is still there, but it seems like they have something different to say this time.

There was always something in Tame Impala’s music that felt baffled, like it was looking outward. Maybe that’s the nature of psychedelic rock. But “Currents” comes at this discussion of all baffling life with a different bent, perhaps a threatening bent to longtime fans.

The sound still begs big questions; it just seems like Parker has begun to settle with some pessimistic answers. This is the difference. The feeling of this album is more conclusive, like a disappointing diagnosis. The dropped jaw of Tame Impala has become closed and flexed.

Notable tracks:
“Let It Happen” — “Currents’” first track takes its time letting the mood set in. It drives down hard and harder, revving its engine, Parker’s riffs turning round and round like big noxious wheels. You can almost imagine Parker in a red leather jacket, ripping down some midnight avenue on a dirt bike. The vocoder courses through the end of the track like a psalm: “All the while thinking I might as well do it/They be lovin’ someone and I’m not that stupid/Take the next ticket to take the next train/Why would I do it?. . . ” You can feel cold wind on your face.

“Yes I’m Changing” — Imagine slow camera sweeps of a silk canopy bed. Tame Impala fully commits to the ‘80s synth setup on this track. Atmosphere complements of electronic strings and hollow, wide-frequency clavs. Vocal melodies are doting and sigh-like.

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A horse of a different color