TAME IMPALA – Innerspeaker
The first few dripping notes emanating from Dominic Simper’s bass guitar and the jangling guitar work of Kevin Parker and Nick Adams on opener ‘It Is Not Meant To Be’, give the instant impression that something special is about to unfold on Tame Impala’s debut album, Innerspeaker. The impression turns out to be spot on. The pychedelic indie rock act from Perth have produced an immensely impressive, taut debut full of infectious hooks, an ever present groove and a masterful use of spatial awareness. It’s a seamless listen, a record easily able to be played on repeat again and again, definitely a true album where tracks complement each other and when hung together, all twelve paint a widescreen full of souped up acid infused soundscapes that have the hallmarks of the best that pyschedelia from the 60s and 70s had to offer.
But make no mistake, Innerspeaker is not merely a homage to those eras, it is fresh and immediate and has ‘now’ written all over it, revitalising and reinvigorating rather than imitating. The songwriting is intelligently hypnotic leaving a creative atmospheric hazy swirl that looms large across the span of the entire record. It’s also very deliberative in that there is no wastage in any of the tracks, each riff, melody, lead, bass line and percussive change is meticulously arranged and laid out for full effect. Take the subtle percussive change that feeds the groove of ‘Alter Ego’, one of the album’s strongest tracks, for it is essential to the driving pulse of the track and leaves you hanging for its entry each time you listen. Similarly the off timing in the chorus as the chord progression of the guitars sits masterfully up against the up tempo beat on the splendid ‘Expectation’ and then throw in the Lennonesque sounding Kevin Parker’s reverb heavy vocal arrangements and you have one of the more memorable moments in music this year or any other for that matter.
Although largely sporting the songwriting fingerprints of Parker, the execution of ideas is a highlight. The immense musical ability of all four members is palpable and not just from a technical standpoint, but there is a definite impression that all are in total control. It’s often what they don’t do that contributes to such a fine assortment of songs. Innerspeaker could have been cluttered with a myriad of unnecessary elements but it isn’t, its economical when it has to be and there is a realisation from each member that space is fundamental to creating a first class psychedelic rock album. The appropriate stick work of Jay Watson is a perfect case in point, fills where they need to be, never overdone, never overplayed, the subtle percussion work a strength, and indeed highlight, of the album.
The album begins with a perfect one two punch with the mastery of the aforementioned relationship between bass and guitar on the opener making way for the intense groove of ‘Desire Be, Desire Go’, a track that has been given the treatment since its appearance on their self titled debut EP. ‘Alter Ego’ is a masterclass in synth work thanks to Adams, while ‘Lucidity’ spins off into a killer riff and sports a classic pysch inspired lead break. The verse-less ‘Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind’ is probably the most immediately catchy track while listening to single ‘Solitude Is Bliss’ is to take a masterclass in song arrangement.
The melody amidst the steady beat that provides the centrepiece to the lengthy ‘Jeremy’s Storm’ is outstanding while the cascading chorus of the varied ‘Expectation’ where Parker’s vocals standout provides a perfect counterpoint for the song’s many parts. The blues inspired prog of ‘The Bold Arrow Of Time’ rests on a Hendrix inspired guitar riff while at the same time taking you into the back room to ingest some serious mind altering substances. The busy riff that dominates ‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds’ is juxtaposed against a relaxed chord progression that provides space exactly where it’s needed. Closer ‘I Don’t Really Mind’ is a 70s synth and effects inspired pop gem with a kiss arse chorus.
The strength of Innerspeaker is the fact that every song is of equal worth and the fact that I’ve mentioned each one in this review speaks volumes. There’s no temptation to skip any of them as the journey through is never difficult. In fact, its probably the easiest run through on an album that I’ve had in a long time. Its immediacy though does not mean that its worth won’t last. Far from it, its multi-faceted nature sparks up something different with each listen. After the recently embarrassing efforts of Wolfmother, The Vines and Jet that so damaged Australia’s indie rock credentials, let’s hope that Tame Impala has restored some global credibility at a time when it is badly needed. Let’s also hope its inspires some creativity in others. With Innerspeaker, Tame Impala have provided an important template with regard to taking the essence of a time in music history and moulding it into something that is well and truly for the here and now and beyond.
James Stocker – June 18, 2010