Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerism’ is deliberate and adventurous, all at once

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Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerism’ is deliberate and adventurous, all at once

Words by Augustus Welby

In the lead up to Tame Impala’s second LP, Lonerism, Kevin Parker spoke of an affinity with pop music that influenced his songwriting, however, he has not reneged on his former adventurousness in favour of the short and snappy.

Lonerism is not straightforward in terms of composition, but there’s certainly more breath in the lungs than on the band’s debut Innerspeaker.

Lonerism is like a cinematic take on the pop music. As it develops, heady musical displays and depictions of self-exclusion and the limits of willpower unfurl, however the album is also an exercise in imagistic movement.

On album opener ‘Be Above It’, the phrase “Gotta be above it” is chanted in rhythmic unison with machine-like drumming. This cog-turning foundation facilitates the outward freedom of Parker’s lead vocals. He enters, in John Lennon voice, expressing the enchanting melodic/lyrical compound “I know that I’ve got to be above it now”. Vibrating guitar chords arrive in the latter part of the song, like beams of light accentuating the lucid resolution.

‘Endors Toi’ is a rousing alert, employing a melodic siren call to capture your attention. Paradoxically, the French title translates to ‘go to sleep’, spoken as an order, and the song can be interpreted as a transitional platform leading you into a new world of consciousness. This notion is enhanced by lyrics such as “Day is done/But a new one’s just begun”.

The journeying guitar sounds that distinguished Innerspeaker’s sonic terrain are still prominent on Lonerism. ‘Mind Mischief’ and ‘Music To Walk Home By’ owe debt to ’60s psych-blues, and ‘Elephant’ gives a nod to the genre’s evolution into ’70s classic-rock and the rougher tangents of ’90s stoner-rock.

Despite the spacey psychedelic impression, Tame Impala’s music is no whacked-out accident. Parker has often stressed the calculated nature of the music he makes and the liberal dollops of phaser, reverb, delay and extensive panning central to Lonerism’s sound are implemented to make a particular impact.

The vast variety of synthesisers that join the guitars at the fore of many tracks on Lonerism provide a shimmering complement to the album’s thematic suggestions. The two most melodically seductive tunes, ‘Why Won’t They Talk To Me’ and ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, convey anxiety at individual stagnation and the inaccessible feelings of others.

The pairing of remote lyrical sentiments and listener-inclusive animation on Tame Impala’s second LP is done to dazzling effect. Lonerism is an illustration of how Parker’s deliberative approach to songcraft allows key ideas to be successfully emphasised without meandering into incoherence.