Tame Impala // Lonerism // October 5 // Modular
“Gotta be above it, gotta be above it, gotta be above it” goes the opening track to Tame Impala’s second LP Lonerism. Above what exactly? It’s a question that can have many answers as with their debut LP Innerspeaker Tama Impala, the product of Kevin Parker, have established themselves a band that is about being “high”. Whether that’s because of their airy production style, the standing tall above all amateurs of psychedelic rock via pop songwriting or the simple fact that their music just screams “do acid”. Lonerism comes two years after Innerspeaker and there are still taste of the drug even if there’s also a sense of coming down.
Lonerism works in the same ways that Innerspeaker worked. It’s classic flower power psychedelic rock that is enormously enhanced by Parker’s taste for pop hooks. His vocals might have an uncanny resemblance to those of John Lennon and Tame Impala’s sound does owe something to Revolver but the hooks were the single thing that lifted Tame Impala above imitators into a category of their own. Lonerism is more of the same but predictably the hooks are not as good as those on the first record. The instruments are dreamier instead of relying on the classic Aussie love for the classic rock. The hooks come in the lyrics and the Parker’s voice which can be difficult to make out with all the effects going on here. If anything, the acid factor on Lonerism feels even more prominent than that on Innerspeaker as that album had songs that you could touch, riffs that you could fathom. Lonerism moves like a mirage that is always out of reach, nice to look at but impossible to connect with.
It feels as the “gotta be above it” part is Parker getting high at the audience’s expense. Luckily whatever he is doing is quite crap as he starts to come down on the fifth track that shows some classic Tame Impala songwriting that shows that this band is not all about using 20 different pedals at the same time. By the time Parker regains his senses on Why Won’t They Talk To Me?, the results turn from muddled to glorious. Why Won’t They Talk To Me? is arguably the strongest Tame Impala track ever managing to mix the dreamy, soft qualities with punchy drums and ethereal euphoria that makes this track an instant highlight. From that moment on, Parker is in the zone and the results he is coming up with are great. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards feels like a song written to define slow dancing while high while further moments like Keep On Lying with it’s dance friendly groove and Elephant with its radio friendly songwriting further cements Tame Impala’s status as a band capable of much more than just being 60s revivalists. The last couple of tracks here feel colder than anything the band has done before, letting more air and ambiance into their busy day lives.
Lonerism can be defined as one big coming down then. The first part of the record is the high that Parker himself enjoys more than any of his listeners will. The middle of the record is golden and is as good as anything on Innerspeaker, those classic psychedelic rock moments that make that record the go to album for psychedelic pop for this decade. It shows that Tame Impala are the strongest when they evoke the feeling of going uphill. Lonerism spends a lot of its time on plains or coming down. The later parts of the record feels restless and sleepless, needing another high. Parker’s reality on Lonerism is an endless cycle of ecstasy and detachment. It’s important that he finds the middle ground on his future releases but as far as difficult second albums go, Lonerism doesn’t deliver as much as it promises that one day Innerspeaker will be blown out of the water. Parker will get above it.