Album Reviews

Tame Impala – Lonerism

on October 11, 2012, 7:59am
tame impala lonerism C+
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The enjoyable thing about Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker was its enduring sense of surprise — how its melting pot of Brit-pop, American psychedelia, and modern indie revealed different layers of itself within different contexts, like looking at a diamond through different levels of lighting. There were moments when, depending on your mood, it seemed like a revival record, a drug record, or a rock-out record. On your best days, it combined all three. 

With Lonerism, Tame Impala have doubled down on the kaleidoscopic refractions of their debut. The melodies are clearer, pushed up in the mix, given agency by their immediacy. The psych bits have earned an assured swagger, spiraling out from the center of songs like “Music to Walk Home By” and “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” in avant-garde patterns and colors. Huge swells of synths are used to heighten the crescendos of “Mind Mischief” and “She Just Won’t Believe Me”, pushing into more dramatic territories than Innerspeaker ever traversed.

The subject matter is more dramatic as well, talking about the oldest form of drama in the book: love and girls and girls and love. Song titles like “Keep On Lying”, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, and “She Just Won’t Believe Me” wouldn’t be out of place on a Dashboard Confessional track list. But given the perpetual dream-sleep quality of Kevin Parker’s voice, those sentiments come off as glassy-eyed and bemused, as opposed to earnest and overwrought. That difference seems intentional, as though Tame Impala are singing about love stories in dreams. Or movies. Or movies about dreams.

Innerspeaker trafficked in that sleepy distance, too, as if it were a thing to be observed and not inhabited. In that way, it was able to carve out its own space inside your head. Lonerism, on the other hand, feels as though it wants to invite you into its head, then shut the door. The killer hooks of “Mind Mischief”, the garage stomp of “Elephant”, and the outro of “Music to Walk Home By” should be thunderous, earth-shaking moments, but they’re undermined Lonerism‘s many insecurities. “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” repeats its title phrase over and over until it becomes the laugh track cue to a bad sitcom. The more you keep asking, dude, the less anyone wants to talk to you. Even soaked in reverb, tangerine dreams, and marshmallow pies, this kind of uncertain hand-wringing can get tedious. And the closing song, “Sun’s Coming Up” is grating and obnoxious enough on its own even before its paired with its meandering, unfocused coda.

But it’s only occasionally that this phenomenon occurs– the first half of “Keep on Lying”, the wobbling, vaguely tuneless keys on the outro of “Nothing That Has Happened…”, most of “She Just Won’t Believe Me”. It’s at these times that the music too accurately reflects nervous, uncertain characteristics of its narrators. With their debut, Tame Impala crafted a record that burrowed into you and filled that space with a smorgasboard of redshifting sound palettes. It’s only the best moments on Lonerism that do the same, where the Australian trio rends swathes of impressionist colors out of their arrangements, digging into your subconscious and making its home there. Lonerism doesn’t always succeed in this way. When it does, it’s when it wants to live in you instead of asking you to live in it.

Essential Tracks: “Mind Mischief”, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, “Elephant”

17 comments

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laugh
May 27, 2014 at 10:25 pm
Mr. Brick
November 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Hey..don’t hate on the reviewer. It’s his opinion. Personally, I enjoyed the CD, so I wouldn’t care if they gave it a .5. Your opinion should be the only one that matters to you. If I was Kevin Parker, I may feel differently.

bubs
October 18, 2012 at 4:26 am

this reviewer is absolutely horrible

Jgibson Gibby
October 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm

First of all , Tame Impala is Kevin Parker and no they are not a band . Kevin Parker wrote all the song, played all the music and engineered Lonerism. You should really get your facts straight. Also this review is terrible . This site overall has really really gone down hill.

AudioSuede
October 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

At the risk of receiving all the downvotes, I disagree with every comment on this thread. If anything, you’re overrating this album. It’s dull, rote psychadelia that offers nothing new to the musical conversation and loses its repetitive, blandly white-noise blah-rock interest after just a single listen.

THAT SAID, you make a good case here for this album’s rating, and the actual quality of this album likely falls between my opinion and the opinion of the fanboys occupying these other comments.

nanobelle
October 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm

The more I listen to this album the more I realize Kevin has a lot to say. The theme is -Nothing has happen so far that we could control. He confronts a bully in Elephant and while he changed by the incident he accepts that the bully is not. In Sun’s coming up he accepts the possibility of death and chaos. He questions his motives and character in Keep on Lying to you. Over and over he shows the masters what he learned from them- riffs from Money, revolver etc and transforms them, develops them into soaring dreamy powerful and ambitious scores to accompany his provocative questions that seem like internalization but are really responses to eternal doubts. Am I getting closer? Will I ever get there? Does it really matter? He is hopeful- This could be the day that all our dreams come true…he is humble- I bide my time as a face in the crowd…I don’t need drugs to fly when I listen to Tame Impala and after listening to the lyrics I feel that whatever lonely place I’m in I’ll have empathetic company to ease the pain.

nick
October 12, 2012 at 1:09 am

I’ve been waiting a week to hear this review from you guys, and then not only do you write one up late, you give it 3.5 stars? What a cop-out CoS. This is easily one of the best albums of the year. But oh, I forgot, Converge just released another album of the same old shit, quick give it 4.5.

bit dark car
October 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Nobody likes critics but the fact is that it’s their responsibility to direct the culture on some level. As far as I’m concerned this album is a success, and an example of what culture and music are supposed to sound like. More music on this level, please.

Kyle
October 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Pretty weak review. This deserved a higher score for sure.

Tony
October 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I loathe music critics.

Cryabetes
October 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Spot on with the essential tracks

Sara L. Rose
October 11, 2012 at 11:06 am

Tame Impala is a quintet, not a trio.

anthonymbeck
October 11, 2012 at 11:29 am

Tame Impala is a solo endeavor and during live performances the instrumentation is played by Kevin Parker’s buddies, whilst he plays guitar/vocals

Carl Carlson
October 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm

*quartet

Stevesmizz
October 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Quintet. They’ve added a fifth to handle synth for the tour.

anthonybeck
October 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

i agree this album is at least 4 to 5 out of five stars. also please be aware that all the instruments on the album are played by one guy, kevin parker. he IS Tame Impala. the only exception is that jay watson performs piano on apocalypse dreams. For actual live performances, kevin gets a full band consisting of his buddies from perth australia. they are all great.

A
October 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

Underrated here.

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