‘And I know that I gotta be above it now’
The first words of Tame Impala’s sophomore effort are strangely prescient, Kevin Parker knows just as well as anyone the pressure that’s fallen on one of indie’s breakout bands since the release of their 2010 psych-trip smash Innerspeaker. On Lonerism he hopes to be above it, he says he’ll ‘Just close my eyes and make it’. Initially I wasn’t sure, it didn’t grab like their debut had but, as is the way of the second album, it’s a real grower; in the course of one listen it went from 4 to 4 and a half to 5. Parker had a lofty goal and hell, he just might just have done it on this dreamy delight.
A wash of synths are the most immediately striking change to the rock solid faux-sixties foundation laid down on its predeccesor; in particular Endors Toi opens with a flood of synth, signalling the shift to the ethereal the album has undertaken. Little else has changed though, it’s still a one man show and it’s still stunning that Parker manages to craft these shifting shapes and apocalypse dreams from the confines of his bedroom. That song, Apocalypse Dreams, is arguably the album highlight; inspired by Lars Von Trier’s film Melancholia and fusing the new, distinctly poppy vibe of the new with the pysch-sounds of the old to create a stunning mesh. Elsewhere there’s callbacks to the old on tracks like Elephant, a rumbling, rolling colossus of a rock song, as simple as it gets and utterly brilliant for it, it’s positively White Stripes-esque in its simplicity and foot-tapping power; but White Stripes never had psych-synth trips like this, if Jack White is a blunderbuss then Parker is a goddamn plasma rifle.
By and large though the sound has grown more expansive, more lush, filling those speakers even more than their already explosive sounding debut; songs like Mind Mischief flow from side to side, almost organically, a dreamy wave floating back and forth. The album is indeed much more ambient and ‘airy’ than its predecessor, you could argue its sacrificed some of Innerspeaker hypnotic drive in the process, drowned out in the sweeping production and the tidal wave of sound that have replaced it(see She Just Won’t Believe Me for proof in under a minute). If you thought Innerspeaker’s sound was layered then this is a whole other level, you can almost get lost searching in the spirals of sounds, it’s kind of awesome. Parker compared it to ‘Britney Spears singing with The Flaming Lips’ and that assessment is, weirdly, pretty much on the money, though not exactly likely to shift units.
This is still very much vintage Tame Impala though, and they do vintage better than anyone right now; capturing that psychedelic flow whilst stamping their own sound on it. It’s rare to see a band nowadays with so distinctive a sound, so fresh an approach, and that’s arguably Lonerism’s best feature, from the moment you put it on you know it’s Tame Impala, you know what you’re getting, you don’t complain if it’s not wildly different, you don’t care that Parker still talks about how lonely he is, it’s comforting in it’s familiarity. Lonerism doesn’t have to be lonely.