Album Of The Week

Dance while you cry inside

Tame Impala's Kevin Parker sums up his break-up with funky vibes in album Currents

Kevin Parker of Australian psychedelic-rock band Tame Impala.
Kevin Parker of Australian psychedelic-rock band Tame Impala.PHOTO: INTERSCOPE

An impala, a zoologist would tell you, is a mid-sized African antelope that roams savanna grasslands and woodlands. A tame impala, if you ask Kevin Parker of the acclaimed Australian psych-rock band of the same name, points to the so-called tension between feral and civilised tendencies.

Listening to their third, heartbreakingly woozy record Currents, you feel the tug of war, the inner struggle between absolute freedom and constraint.

It is, after all, a break-up record on more levels than one.

Written in the wake of his split from French singer Melody Prochet of the band Melody's Echo Chamber and recorded after he returned to his hometown of Perth, it is "completely" autobiographical, as Parker avers, and unapologetically so.

Best imbibed with headphones, the music is blissed-out, wave after intricate wave lapping at your consciousness. It is a progression from his debut, 2010's Innerspeaker, and 2012's Lonerism, sounding lonelier and even more expansive at the same time. In fact, you can dance to it at a beach rave even as you cry inside.




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It is psychedelic all right, but this time, there is a soul, even alternative R&B sensibility that underscores the funky, dancey vibes. It is Parker keening like a Bee Gee, or Frank Ocean. It is Parker not giving up.

The first track, Let It Happen, sums up polar sentiments. "All this running around/Trying to cover my shadow/An ocean growing inside/All the others seem shallow," he sings like a bruised choirboy as trippy beats swell and retreat.

"Just let it happen, let it happen," he chants like a messiah exhorting his disciples, not least himself, in the face of impending disaster.

Whereas Bjork stares helplessly as her relationship crumbles in her latest record Vulnicura, here Parker shows how it must be from the other side: the one who initiates the break-up. It is a trickier thing to do, and one he pulls off with heart.

He does not sugar-coat matters even as the music lulls. The Less I Know The Better, Past Life and 'Cause I'm A Man are candid and tender and contrarian, melodies swirling around like candy floss.

The emollient R&B of Love/Paranoia reveals a passiveaggressive negotiation at its core. "And suddenly I'm the phony one/The only one with a problem," he confesses, before saying sorry.

Eventually is a catalogue of reasons/excuses/cliches which are somehow on-the-point.

"I know I always said that I could never hurt you/This is the very, very last time I'm ever going to," he warns, as the percussion crashes and a bass hums.

"But I know that I'll be happier/And I know you will, too/Eventually," he sings, the last word repeated.

In Yes, I'm Changing, a glacial dirge disguised as a 12-step movement, he calms and shows the way to redemption and transformation.

"But baby, now there's nothing left that I can do/So don't be blue," he purrs in his best John Lennon approximation.

You will sway. You will embrace all humanity, enemies included, wondering what lies beyond the horizon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Dance while you cry inside'. Subscribe