Album review: “The Slow Rush” was well worth Tame Impala’s slow release
The iconic clock face draped over a tree limb like a piece of laundry in front of a glassy body of water in “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali caused a reevaluation of humanity’s relationship with time and perception in the 20th century through the Surrealist movement. Surrealism was a fascination with illusions, the subconscious, time and its passage, leading to discovery and the subversion of reality’s expectations by revealing the more playful and unpredictable sides of human experience.
It seems fitting that the album cover of Tame Impala’s “The Slow Rush” plays upon Surrealist imagery with a mystical red room filled with dunes of sand in front of giant open windows. The album’s themes sonically and lyrically are obsessed with the confusion of existence, the passing of time and aiming to define memory just like Surrealism.
Time was on lead singer Kevin Parker’s mind in the making of “The Slow Rush” in the five years it took to complete after his last album “Currents.” In those five years, Tame Impala became a headlining rock act with a larger following than ever before and Parker experienced the loss of his home in a California wildfire. The influence of these two changes led to stress and expectation can be heard on the record, which aims to be a new direction in Parker’s sound that honors his style and serves his immense following.
Opening with a stuttering vocoder that seamlessly morphs into a groovy beat, “One More Year” is a triumphant breath of air signaling Parker’s jovial return. The song is about the acceptance of being trapped and finding contentment in existence regardless of period or circumstance. With layered electronics, drums, bass, guitar and assured vocals from Parker, the song seamlessly blends all elements with the iconic, pristine production Tame Impala is now known for.
The production on “The Slow Rush” is just astoundingly excellent. Be it the funk and house bounce of “Breathe Deeper,” the floating build of driving drums, acoustic guitar, synths and organ from a single piano chord on “On Track” or the hypnotic bass groove of “Is It True,” the album uses its instrumentation in cutting-edge ways, putting them in engaging conversation with one another while blending into a singular entity.
Parker draws styles and influences from pop, house, funk, R&B, psychedelic rock and progressive rock, making “The Slow Rush” a joyous experience and musical time capsule. Every single song on the album makes the listener want to get up and dance. Melody after melody, hook after hook, “The Slow Rush” is infectious in every sense of the word and just plain fun to listen to.
“Borderline” is a particular standout on the album and has the elements to become a modern rock anthem. It is the essence of a Tame Impala song: a series of existential questions posed in the lyrics, addressed by diving in headfirst to see where fate leads. Punchy drums, jazz flute and synth bass swirl into a song that seems ideal for a disco-ball illuminated roller-rink dance floor in 1984.
While the production and instrumentation are the main draw of this album, Kevin Parker does come through with some genuinely moving and insightful lyrics. He broaches the topic of environmentalism and the precarity of the Earth as time passes on “Tomorrow’s Dust.”
“Sympathy for the fauna/ fragile life in the sauna/ in the sea getting warmer/ endlessly round the corner,” Parker sings.
On the most moving track on the album lyrically, “Posthumous Forgiveness,” Parker has a conversation to try and make peace with his estranged father, giving a glimpse into the complex relationship young adults have with their parents as they both age.
“I wanna tell you ‘bout the time/ wanna tell you ‘bout my life/ wanna play you all my songs/ learn the words, sing along,” Parker sings to his father in the song.
“The Slow Rush” is a testament to Tame Impala’s abilities as their unique positioning in the music industry being indie rockers who broke into the mainstream and maintained their creative sound while appealing to a wider audience and paying direct homage to their influences. Tame Impala has such a wide appeal for a simple reason: they are one of the best rock bands out there. For this reason, fans like me will gladly wait another five years, albeit anxiously, fiending for whatever music dimension they transport us next.