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Tame Impala

West Coast psychedelia reconfigured half a century on for the tenties and not in 60s America, but in Perth, Australia, TAME IMPALA – the brainchild of dextrous singer/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker (born 20 January 1986, Sydney) – breezed into the mainstream via MySpace and his love of kaleidoscopic indie-rock. Performing live as a trio (alongside bassist Dominic Simper and drummer Jay Watson) then, in turn, as a quintet (adding drummer Julien Barbagallo and bassist Cam Avery – superseding fellow Pond alumni Nick Allbrook), TAME IMPALA embody the sound of The BEATLES, early PINK FLOYD, CREAM and The FLAMING LIPS. But then again, Parker could fluctuate like the weather or a trapped wildebeest, as witnessed on 2015’s game-changing “Currents”.
Toying with the idea of forming a bona fide band since the age of 13, Parker and former school chum Simper roped in Watson to assess the feasibility of taking their sounds to a live venue around 2007. Social networking several of their songs onto the MySpace website, Modular Records were first to show interest and, showing patriotic loyalty, other offers from major labels had to be turned down in 2008. A couple of eponymous EPs were issued in the months of September and October, one for Hole In The Sky Records, the other on Modular, but both containing versions of the CREAM-like `Half Full Glass Of Wine’ and `Skeleton Tiger’. The following year, the beautiful ZOMBIES-esque `Sundown Syndrome’ single was backed by a cover of Blueboy’s `Remember Me’; all of these glorious pieces could soon be found on a collectors’ bonus-CD edition of their debut set.
Summer 2010 seemed as good a time as any to unleash the mind-blowing neo-psych album, INNERSPEAKER {*9}. Setting the controls for the heart of Sgt. Pepper, with minimal augmentation from his aforementioned buddies, the pink Parker and producer Dave Fridmann (ex-MERCURY REV) floated in and out of conceptual consciousness on the mind-altering `Lucidity’, `Solitude Is Bliss’ and the shape-shifting instrumental `Jeremy’s Storm’ (Parker’s “Astronomy Domine”). Sounding similar to a trippy JOHN LENNON was in his favour on `Expectation’, `It Is Not Meant To Be’, `Desire Be Desire Go’ and `Alter Ego’, while early Fab Four came to be for curtain closer, `I Don’t Really Mind’.
Whether these comparisons hit a sour note with Parker was not certain, but in 2012’s transatlantic commercial breakthrough, LONERISM {*9}, the songwriter toned down the guitars and beefed up the synths and keystrokes. The Fridmann connection was maintained even although Parker had mislaid his half-full iPod on a trip to Paris to produce Melody Prochet/MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER’s eponymous record. Already deemed a genius by people in the know, Kevin and stalwart Jay leant on McCARTNEY for inspiration rather than just LENNON; the pounding psych-pop of `Be Above It’, `Endors Toi’, `Apocalypse Dreams’ and `Mind Mischief’, a sort-of one-man-“Band On The Run”. Harmony-addled and almost approaching glam-rock, `Elephant’ and the classy `Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ were certainly up there as contenders for songs of the year.
On the back of a relatively low-key concert set, LIVE VERSIONS (2014) {*6}, Parker turned to the mirror-ball Studio 54 scene for the majority of 2015’s self-produced CURRENTS {*7}; examples `Let It Happen’ and `The Moment’. Trendsetting in a retrospective manner, cherry-picking styles from a variety of past masters such as TODD RUNDGREN (for snippet `Nangs’ and `Past Life’) and DAFT PUNK (for the catchy `The Less I Know The Better’), the home-soil number 1 and Top 5 UK/US album sold the psychedelic jerseys for a PRINCE-esque R&B agenda. Despite the intentional glitches and musical detours, it was still sad to think of Parker’s previous potential. The fact was that TAME IMPALA were now a pale imitation of their once weird and wonderful selves.
The much in-demand Parker subsequently contributed guest spots, co-songwriting credits and even a session on respective works by TRAVIS SCOTT, KANYE and MARK RONSON. The latter modern-day production icon was certainly an influence on TAME IMPALA’s long-awaited transatlantic Top 3 return, THE SLOW RUSH (2020) {*8}; as was PHARRELL, DAFT PUNK and the BEE GEES. Awash with soaring swathes of sexy, synthetic soul and high-pitched hues (at least on initial cuts `One More Year’, `Instant Destiny’ and single `Borderline’), further inspection revealed that popsicle Parker had more petrol in his tank; as the dreamy `Tomorrow’s Dust’ or the RUNDGREN-esque `On Track’ and `It Might Be Time’ suggested. Not exactly OF MONTREAL, but KP was certainly of our times.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2015-Feb2020

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