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Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ transcends expectations

by Olivia Weinzapfel After what seemed like a wait of a million years, the Aussie psychedelic rock band, Tame Impala, finally released their fourth studio album after a painstakingly-long wait. The album, The Slow Rush, was released in full on Feb. 14, 2020, and it was inarguably the best Valentine’s Day present anyone could have asked for. Thankfully, however, none of us had to wait until 2020 to get even the slightest taste of new music; we were gifted with the single "Patience" in late March of 2019, the first work of musical art from the band since Currents in 2015. Although not on the album, this track alone gave us a great taste of what new to expect from the band that put out three full-length albums prior, all distinctly different in sound and character. Listening in retrospect, "Patience" introduced us to some of the themes covered in the new album and gave us a decent introduction for the “feel” of the music we would later get to experience in The Slow Rush. This sampling trend continued on with the release of the single "Borderline"—not long after "Patience"—and then so on and so forth with the releases of "Posthumous Forgiveness," "It Might Be Time," and "Lost in Yesterday," all featured on the album. A little bit at a time, we were drawn into the album and the ideas that fueled its creation before it was even released. With all the single releases—and later with the full album—we received everything we love about the old Tame Impala but with a new, fresh twist.

Mind-altering emotional vulnerability

Before diving into the thematic aspects of the album, we first have to establish who the mastermind is behind Tame Impala. As some of you may or may not know, Tame Impala is comprised of one man who creates and produces the music, and then has a flawless backing band to accompany him. Kevin Parker is the real powerhouse of the cell—the mitochondria, if you will. Every Tame Impala album thus far has contained the thoughts and feelings of Parker, expressed through music composed by the man himself. If you actively listen to Tame Impala’s past albums, you’ll find that Parker is no stranger to expressing emotional vulnerability, and that doesn’t change in The Slow Rush. With music as his creative outlet, Parker’s lyrics contain a wide range of introspective thought and conscious awareness—along with the musical compositions to complement. The overarching theme of The Slow Rush is personal reflection in relation to the passage of time. One of the most admirable things about Tame Impala’s music—and this album is no exception—is the timelessness in regard to those personal reflections. The Slow Rush is by no means tailored only to those who struggle in their coming-of-age years; this album is one that is and will remain relevant throughout all stages of life. A prime example of a song that explores that concept of internal struggle tied with time is "On Track," where Parker takes on a first-person narrative, worrying about being on-track in life, which is a very universal problem that many feel pressured about in our day-to-day lives. Many of us have yet to realize that there is no right or wrong “track” for any of us to be on, and this is one of many songs on the album that reminds us of the fact that we’re all going at our own pace and we should experience our lives in the personalized stages that they come in.

Psychedelic synths and entrancing percussion

The Slow Rush can very well be compared to Currents in its characteristics of Tame Impala’s version of psychedelic music; the style of psychedelia that they ensue is similar in both albums and is immediately recognizable as Tame Impala’s signature sound. Each and every song on both LPs truly takes your ears on a symphonic journey, demanding your full attention to the detail of the compositions that make up the aural ecstasy. What’s unique about this album is the heavy reliance on percussion, and even heavier reliance on synthetic sounds that mimic retro, funk, and in some cases even disco music, while somehow still fitting into their unique psychedelic mold. Taking it back to my point about how “Patience” exemplifies this perfectly: even though this song, again, was not included in the album, it still shows us this new stage of Tame Impala that embraces a bizarre mix of genres. Another song that induces a musical era flashback is “Breathe Deeper,” which has a distinct, retro-type feel to it by way of soaring synths and tight percussion. Many songs on the album hold either a very strong or sometimes looser grip of this concept, but it really gives overall character to the album as a whole and makes it stand out just as much as the theme. In numerous interviews with Parker throughout his career, he talks about how Supertramp, the progressive English rock band, has moved him and his music during his life and career. In Currents—and even sprinkled into Lonerism (2012)— you can definitely see where he’s coming from and how Supertramp has motivated some musical decisions when Parker produces. In The Slow Rush, this influence is taken to a new level, and a lot of songs from the track list seem to loosely model some of Supertramp’s most popular songs. Take, for example, “It Might Be Time” in parallel to Supertramp’s “The Logical Song.” Listening to Supertramp’s Breakfast in America album (1979), there are a lot of components that The Slow Rush mimics. In no way is it a copy or even derivative of Breakfast in America, but Parker allowed that unique style of music to help mold this modern psychedelic album, and it was fabricated to perfection. Recommended if you like: Pond Crumb Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Featured Image: The Duke Chronicle