“That is what I have always wanted from psych music, for it to transport me”, muses Kevin Parker, referring to his much-publicized mushroom and coke fueled sedan ride across LA while listening to the Bee Gees. Currents does just that. While it doesn’t abandon the core DNA of their heady melodies and expansive sound, this time around pop, disco and soul influences creep in to the mix and Parker reins them in to masterful effect.
Recorded and mixed at his home studio in Freemantle, Australia, Currents marks the biggest paradigm shift in Tame Impala’s sound. Riffing guitars no longer drive songs foreword, but are mostly relegated to subtle fills or the crunchy climax on “Let it Happen” the 7 minute opener, that acts as a mission statement for what is to follow. The production work here is so fine tuned it is staggering, yet it retains a blissful, colorful and fun element that transcends the minutia of details. Every synth swell and drum filtering is so expertly wrought it is a wonder that a known perfectionist like Parker was ever able to complete the album.
Parker never seems to let his penchant for perfectionism seem to get the better of him. Currents is a free flowing and heady affair. An album that seems just at home on the beach with friends as it does in dark isolation with headphones.
Interludes “Nangs and “Gossip” act as production showcases and bellow with warbly synth and jangly guitar. The potent synth come-on at the outset of “Nangs” is like a hit of nitrous oxide to the brain. But lets just forget about the guitar for now. Kevin Parkers bass work here is absolutely fantastic. “The Moment” and 70’s funk throwback “The Less I Know The Better” bring punchiness and groove to the instrument that could act as rock music’s answer to the “drop” in the dance music scene.
Parker doesn’t seem wholly convinced that Currents is necessarily break up album per se though the lyrics throughout speak to that topic more often than not. When bombastic drums abruptly cut to a wash of synth and he sings “I know that ill be happier, and I know you will too….eventually” on “Eventually” its hard not to picture the end of a relationship. But the heart and soul of this album isn’t just about the end of something, but a change, a transition, a rebirth. This is Parkers “Kid A” or “Z”. A dynamic change and yet a fully realized vision that stays true to Tame Impala.
Album closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” acts as a bookend to “Let it Happen”. A heavy bass and tweaked xylophone lay the groundwork for a slow build that turns into one of the most brilliant minute and a half of any Tame Impala song. Bubbling keyboards, fuzzed out guitar and a bouncy dance beat bloom into an absolutely gorgeous coda, with Parkers falsetto, awash with effects, punctuating “feel like a brand new person” into the mix. It’s blissed out, heady, and just plain beautiful. If this is Kevin Parker changing, we should gladly welcome it.