Album Reviews

Tame Impala – Currents

Final Rating: 8.3/10

“Tell my mother I’m sorry”. Kevin Parker leaves the scene like Josh Brolin’s character in No Country for Old Men with a messaged passed on to his parent in the song Let It Happen. Llewellyn (Brolin) is quickly reminded that his mother is dead, in which he rebuttles that he may as well say hi to her himself due to his undeniable outcome. Parker is on a journey himself. He is tired of normalcy and everyday monotony. We forget that parents have gone through the same adventures as us; If anything, having a child is a way to change the course of one’s life. Parker leaves for the door, but it’s obvious here, too, that it will be him that ultimately tells his mother these words in the end (he does through lyricism anyways); He just doesn’t know it yet.

Currents is a dip into a different exit to make a last minute escape. This is that subconscious sprint to catch that train Joel Barish had. It was Parker, through his acclaimed Tame Impala project, who noticed that we sometimes work in reverse in life. Before it felt like a theme. It has sprouted into a reality with this latest album, which meanders through any era that has synths in it. No Elephants to trample on this album, as every song works like a digital river with the many ways Currents flows. Every track is a thought Parker has dwelled and fixated on. He questions why we do what we do in the first place, and he does this while channeling disco music: The very same genre that nearly killed the careers of his rock influences.

Disco went through a similar death, though, and the impossibility of stopping nostalgia’s foreshadowed end scares Parker. Tame Impala’s previous two albums had hints of joy and cheer at least within the music. Currents is a full on self analysis and a heavy one at that. He notices the experience of running in circles that we all face, and to escape that is to only run in circles within your mind. We simply have too much time and not enough time at once, so we will naturally not know what to do with our short days during our long lives. “Don’t make me wait forever” is a pleading Parker makes in The Less I Know The Better, a standout track. He ends the song challenging Superman to say “[his] stupid line”. He is either testing those with power, a possible higher being or himself to change things. He is left unanswered.

Many hours were spent on Currents with Parker going over tracks over and over again. The final song New Person, Same Old Mistakes is textured enough to boast what feels like branded hours of studio time. “Maybe fake’s what I like” is a conclusion he makes in that song, one of which ends an album stuffed with synthetic, digital drapery. It is almost as if Parker got tired of being the everyday working man robot only to discover that he was this fully capable android with different avenues of thought.

We are all wired similarly and we all live in the same society. Our fates are all going to be alike, even if we take on different challenges. Parker will forever be a machine of the world just like the rest of us. Currents is his way of fooling himself that he can feel differently about this. It’s a beautiful concoction of doubt, self targeted lying and wishful deception. It is only truthful in its cynicism. No matter where Parker goes from here, Currents will be a staple of his career. It is the moment he recorded his existential crisis and both won and failed. No one makes it out of the system alive, but they can sure document their discoveries in such a way that unites us.

Even the music gets locked into a state of repetition. Songs will have monents that skip over and over that turn into the new path for the song (the self struggle to stay relevant). Currents goes over the same ground often, but it’s a mesmerizing effort to escape this labyrinth. It works thematically, and it is thanks to this universal need for separation and self revaluation that makes Currents’ similar tones forgivable. It’s a lush album full of mystery that opens up the songs that get lost in one another.

Llewellyn learned that life is short even before he ran away from home. He learned it through his mother’s death. It can be too late to act upon human connectivity, but it can never be too soon. If Parker wants to apologize to his mother, he should go tell her himself. Hopefully Currents was his escape-come-full-circle that he needed to branch out to others again. After all, he is a one man band that works with touring musicians. Despite the poppy and catchy nature, Currents is the least tame Tame Impala has ever been. Parker’s confusing retreat is a layered treat for the rest of us, and I hope there is solace for him in that.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.