It’s 9:34 p.m., Pacific Standard Time, February 13, 2020. I think that means the new Tame Impala record has been digitally available for 34 minutes.
And there it is! With the efficiency of a microwaved burrito!
OK. I’ve got some ice cream from Molly Moon’s. Molly Moon’s used to be The Shit — until Salt and Straw moved into town and revolutionized the whole ice cream game with flavors like “Bacon and Eggs” and “Grandma’s Ham Salad Sandwich.” Thank God we got another establishment with an “and” name. We didn’t have enough of those. I’m going to open an artisanal butcher shop called Tendon and Gristle. Or maybe Loin and Gizzard. Yeah? Good? Yeah. Good.
The TV has Brian Williams talking to some NYT reporters about the latest evil actions of nutty joker of a president. None of this shall factor into the tally for Mr. Kevin Parker, a.k.a. Tame Impala. I shall maintain an open mind and a willing heart as I listen to this long-awaited, five-years-in-the-making record.
OK then. I’ve pressed play. The sound in my headphones makes me feel like I’m in the lobby of a W Hotel in 2011. The melody and lyrics have arrived, and they don’t make me feel much better. Maybe it’s where I’m at in life, but I’m sincerely hoping this isn’t an album’s worth of songs about mortality.
Not even through the first song, and I have a bad feeling about this. In fairness: I don’t expect this album to be good. I was into Tame Impala real early. I used to scan Pitchfork for record reviews that had the word “psychedelic,” because that’s always been catnip for me. I could not believe my luck when I first heard “Innerspeaker.” I felt like some secret stoner refugee-prisoners from Pink Floyd and The Beatles and Jimi had formed a band and that band played for no one but me.
“Innerspeaker” changed everything, way more so than when a fancy ice cream shop invades from the South. (Why this constant ice cream motif? Sorry, no more.) “Innerspeaker” knocked Spoon off of its pedestal, kind of like how “Nevermind” put an end to hair metal. Wait, did I just compare Spoon to hair metal? I don’t mean it. (Although: bands who break my heart shall be treated harshly. Let it be known.) And, as good as “Innerspeaker” was, “Lonerism” was better. And then “Currents”? Well, “Currents” might just be one of the best pop/rock albums…ever? Yeah, I really believe that.
There’s that quote about second acts in American life. Is it Fitzgerald? “There are no second acts in American life”? That feels apocryphal, at least to the extent that I even know what apocryphal actually means. And anyway Kevin Parker is Australian, so what the hell does it matter about second acts or American lives? Australian lives probably have lots of acts. But wait, doesn’t he live in LA now?
That was pointless. And by “that,” I mean the second track.
We’ve reached “Borderline,” the third track. I know this one because it’s been out in the world for close to a year. It was the second track Parker the boys played on SNL last spring. It’s OK. I’m not happy to say it’s the third track and it’s the best track so far and it’s only an OK track.
“Posthumous Forgiveness.” This one’s been out for a while. I dislike it. I’m all for a guy trying to come to terms with his dad’s death, but the song just doesn’t work for me. No harm, no foul. Not my cup of tea. Yours perhaps. That’s cool. Let’s not fight. Let’s move on.
“Breathe Deeper” is the fifth track and it’s the first one that genuinely has my attention.
“Tomorrow’s Dust.” Yeah, I’m into this. That’s a nice beat, Kev. And that’s some nice acoustic fingerpicking. I think I’ve heard this. Was it part of a trailer? At any rate: yes. It’s a mood. It’s not a single, but it’s real nice in an L.A. way. Weird secret ending. Kevin has a way with that stuff. That detached bridge in “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” is so genius. Similar move here. Not as meaningful, but similar.
“On Track.” This is starting to feel like that familiar thing where the second part of a record goes kind of awry. And, thing is, I almost always like that part of the record best. That said, “On Track” doesn’t really go anywhere. I’m feeling that way about a lot of these songs. They just sort of jog in place.
(I’m gonna stop for a second to say this: I have a feeling this album is the one where Kevin decided he needed to “say something” in his lyrics. I don’t begrudge him that. A lot of people are into things like…words. This is entirely my issue, but: unless you’re Bob Dylan, I don’t really care about your lyrics. For me, Tame Impala was great because of sounds and vibes and moods. I frankly didn’t need to know what the songs were about. The few snatches of intelligible words that I got were good enough for me. “Apocalypse Dreams” is absolutely my favorite song of the last 10 years if not my favorite song of ETERNITY, and this gives me chills just to write its final lines: Nothing ever changes. No matter how long you do your hair, it looks the same to everyone else. Everything is changing. I guess I should warn my mom. But she’ll just be excited…” OH MY GOD that makes me so happy. That song, that sentiment, that attitude, that feeling of a rocket ship taking off and only taking a few of us. That, to me, is what Mr. Kevin Parker is capable of.
Back to “The Slow Rush.”
“Lost in Yesterday.” We know this one. This one is OK. Just OK.
“Is It True.” This song is fine. Just fine.
We’re getting near the end and nothing has truly grabbed me. “It Might Be Time” is the next-to-penultimate (pen-penultimate?) track. It’s a fact: all pop culture writing must eventually work in the word “penultimate.” I like this song. My brother does not. This song, too, has been around a while. It’s always struck me as a much, much better Supertramp song, one where someone really cared about overdriving the drum and bass sound and no one is singing like a yippy little bastard dog. That probably wasn’t fair, though I’m not sure whether it was more potentially offensive to Mssrs. Tramp or yippy little bastard dogs.
“Glimmer.” Oh no. I’m back at that sketchy W Hotel lobby. The light is so dim, so vaguely purple. Those horribly named cocktails! Those overly-perfumed eastern European women! Yes, I’m at the W, trying to make out the numbers on a credit card that I’m realizing isn’t even mine. I’m in some kind of Tony Soprano death bed fever dream. Shit, that’s it. Kevin Parker = Kevin Finnerty. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s probably for the best. But know that when Steve Buscemi tries to guide you into the pretty house with a pleasant party happening inside: don’t go.
Which isn’t to say that “The Slow Rush” feels like I’m dying. It’s just that it’s more slow than rush.
I’m at the end. It’s not lost on me this final track is called “One More Hour,” and the first track is “One More Year.” I go for that kind of cyclical stuff on records, and I get that my friend Mr. Parker is starting to feel time, maybe even fretting that what used to feel like lots of time (a year) is starting to close in on him and feel more like…well, like an hour.
I get it man. Me too. Me too.
Oddly moving coda: during the last minutes of the record, Kevin is wishing for time alone. That, oddly enough, gives me hope. All of this guy’s best moments have been about solitude. It’s great that he can stand on laser beams and let his auto-tuned voice charm 100,000 people at Coachella, but at the end of it all, he’s still that loner.
“There’s a party in my head. And no one is invited.” Now that’s a sentiment.