Tame Impala – Lonerism

Baffled by the world at large, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker has created his own psychedelic microcosm, writes DOUG WALLEN.

Where to begin? Well, for one, the much-foreshadowed presence of synths aren’t the least bit incongruous in the exploded crust-psych palette that Kevin Parker continues to foster for Tame Impala. They’re just another means of wavering transcendence on Lonerism, which stokes affection easily but can be hard to truly connect with. A lot of it only clicked for me on the fifth listen, and even now ‘Keep On Lying’ and “Nothing That Has Happened So Far…’ still slow the momentum.

It’s deep, swelling psych – that much is obvious. Amorphous and familiar, it’s impossible not to hear John Lennon in the vocals or mixer David Fridmann’s other work (Mercury Rev et al) in the hazy depths. The only proper anthem is the swagger-rific ‘Elephant’; most of the tracks couch their nifty hooks in leisurely pacing and soft-focus atmosphere. But just when you’re tempted to discount the record for style-over-substance tendencies, Parker’s lyrics prove to be the half-hidden heart of it all. Not unlike on debut Innerspeaker, come to think of it.

“I just don’t know where the hell I belong,” he laments amid druggy soul-searching on ‘Mind Mischief’. “I thought I was happy,” he sighs on ‘Why Won’t They Talk To Me?’, a portrait of being shut down by the outside world. On a later track he muses, “I’ll disconnect completely/See how that works out,” as if it’s the only option left. It’s melancholy introspection set against ear-popping escapism.

“There’s no doubt Parker has achieved a heady microcosm that’s a step up from the last record.”

There’s a lot to like here: The cloudy flare-ups of drums, the wandering bass lines, the senses-distorting vastness of space. Even if it starts to feel repetitive by the time we hit the crisscrossed synth warfare and harmonic swirl of ‘Music to Walk Home By’, there’s no doubt Parker has achieved a heady microcosm that’s a step up from the last record. But though he puts everything right out there in the titles – see ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, by far my favourite track, and the minute-long, abruptly-ended daydream ‘She Just Won’t Believe Me’ – it can also feel like he’s hiding his sentiments (and songs) behind all that pillowy music.

Then again, the closing ‘Sun’s Coming Up (Lambingtons)’ strips things back to just piano and voice and, while it’s a lovely lullaby about dislocation amid world touring, it doesn’t have quite the same impact. Maybe we need those layers to wade through, that journey to take. Again, it’s well-executed escapism. Whether or not we finally connect with Parker’s poignant self-reflection, there’s plenty here to consume us. Baffled by the world at large, Parker has once again created his own.