At the turn of the decade, Fremantle's Kevin Parker was relatively unknown. Innerspeaker, Tame Impala's debut album, was released in May of 2010 and despite its critical acclaim and the steady fanbase growth, Parker was still finding his feet. Fast forward ten years later and he is one of the most in-demand collaborators in music working with everyone from Lady Gaga to A$AP Rocky, he's headlined Coachella, sold out shows across the world and has come to release some of the decade's most defining singles. Now, on the eve of the release of Tame Impala's fourth album The Slow Rush, Parker comes to terms with his new life, worlds apart from those early days in Fremantle, and wonders out loud, "Where the hell do I go from here?"
Time has always been a running theme in Tame Impala's music, and one that Parker openly grapples with as a form of therapy throughout his albums. There are not many artists who so transparently inject their lives and their inner monologues into their music for all to see so clearly, but keep it universal enough for listeners everywhere to go on the journey with him, but this is something Parker has finessed into a fine art. He's done exactly this again with The Slow Rush, which simultaneously looks backwards while bravely stepping forwards.
Like an outstretched hand begging you to take it as you step into the future, while everything you've ever known is behind you, it's this that Parker focuses on in its many different forms. From the yearning rush of opener 'One More Year', to the quintessential psychedelia of 'Instant Destiny', the open letter to his late father on 'Posthumous Forgiveness' or the self-acceptance that sometimes dwelling in the past is not such a good idea on 'Lost in Yesterday', Parker grapples with nostalgia while almost bolstering himself up to take the next step as the album continues.
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Just as Currents before it took a step further into the maximalist pop that Parker found himself in a few years ago, The Slow Rush continues this. It's meticulously produced, it's loud, and it's powerful, proving Parker took just as much away from his time in the Pop Machine as he gave. He's openly embracing dance music influences like never before, with disco getting a serious run on many tracks on this record. It's no coincidence to me that, given dance music has always provided a sense of community and a sense of belonging for those lost in the real world, that Parker might indeed find some solace in these new sounds. From the way too short 'Glimmer' to the new, freaked-out version of 'Borderline', the vast array of influences he's intertwined on each song shows he's using everything he's got here and that he's making it all count. It's now or never.
For me, the sense of The Slow Rush can be summed up in one of the record's singles, 'It Might Be Time'. With its big drums, laser synths and booming vocals, it's a jarring shake up in the middle of the tracklist but one which, when listening to the record as a whole, provides a birds-eye-view of what is happening for Parker. Lyrics like "I'm only tired of all these voices/ always sayin' nothing lasts forever" into the hook where he acknowledges "It might be time to face it/ It ain't as fun as it used to be...You ain't as cool as you used to be" and later admitting, "You might as well embrace it," show Parker's acceptance almost as if in real time that one part of his life is over and the next part has already begun so it is indeed time to face it. Grappling with age, fame and fortune, a new marriage, unprecedented commercial success and knowing there are millions of people out there as Tame Impala fans -- it wouldn't be an easy task to try and comprehend that while in the public eye, but its something he knows he needs to do now, and something he's finally okay with.
Closing track 'One More Hour' is a powerful, defiant final deep breath before jumping into the abyss, compared to the longing of opener 'One More Year'. Parker grapples with the reason and meaning behind it all. It's also the darkest, most "Tame Impala"-esque song on the record, going right back to the psychedelic odysseys that garnered them their cult-like long term fans in the first place. It's fitting then that he'd retreat this far back in the band's history, going right back to where it all began to provide some sort of perspective on where its at now, and where it's still going to go. As the song winds its way into its final moments, the storm is lifted with Parker embracing being "the man I am," and comes to a moment of reconciliation as he acknowledges what he's done and why he's done it (for love, for fun).
Growing up is hard, and there are many times where you sit back and think the aforementioned question, "Where the hell do I go from here?" It's uncomfortable and when you add in grief, loss, change, impending environmental destruction, the rise of fascism, systemic corruption of governments, human suffering and the many, many more global issues facing us right now, can you forgive someone for wanting to retreat? It's extremely hard to look forward when so much of the future is so uncertain, so it is completely understandable that you'd seek solace and comfort in the familiar embrace of nostalgia. The trick, however, is to know that the past is exactly that and it's not coming back (no matter how much we want it to) so it's not wise to get stuck there for too long. Kevin Parker has always contemplated the concept of time, how it makes us feel and how it means so many different things to so many people, but finally with his fourth album, The Slow Rush is indeed exactly that -- a slow and steady but simultaneously all too fast, blink-and-you'll-miss-it rush experience. It's Parker telling us he's taking the leap forward, and that it's okay for us to as well. After all, we may as well embrace it.
The Slow Rush is out February 14th. Tame Impala are touring Australia throughout April, head here for information.
Image: Neil Krug
Words by Emma Jones