For the past few years, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker has had to reckon with something that he couldn’t have possibly predicted. Not only had he become a go-to collaborator in the wider music scene, but he had also become the go-to collaborator in the wider music scene. Gone are the days of relative anonymity washed in psychedelic hues as Parker embraced a second wind of his career – a bona fide superstar. He’s worked with Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Kanye West and was even covered by Rihanna on her most recent album – all of these artists are worlds apart from his beginnings, and all of these artists are bona fide superstars in their own right. Needless to say, Parker’s career and presence have been completely upheaved. If Currents saw Parker standing there convincing himself that change is okay, then The Slow Rush is him jumping headfirst into the deep end.
Upon first listen of the album, it is clear that this is a sonic outlier in Tame’s discography. Tame Impala are no longer immersed in the swirling technicolour of psychedelic rock, but instead staying afloat atop the controlled chaos of maximalist pop – with a Kevin Parker twist, of course. It’s clear his airy, feather-light vocals have come miles since 2015 – tossing between the usually delicate and the surprisingly striking whenever necessary. Even on the album’s biggest diversion from Tame’s discography – the sparkling, disco-laden, almost completely instrumental banger ‘Glimmer’ – Parker remains firmly himself. While it’s relatively short, the synths are still razor-sharp and beautifully atmospheric.
But, the overarching theme of The Slow Rush is easy to pinpoint – it’s time. Time is a social construct (see: not real) and Parker tries to reckon with it as it seems to move faster than he wants to. Almost every song title on the album references time in some way, with words like ‘yesterday’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘instant’ and ‘posthumous’ as well as being bookended with ‘One More Year’ and ‘One More Hour’. There are even 12 tracks, which could represent each of the twelve months.
‘One More Year’, with a strutting bassline and bright guitar strums, sees Parker yearn for more time to break the stagnant nature of a relationship – “We’re on a roller coaster stuck on its loop-de-loop/’Cause what we did one day on a whim/Will slowly become all we do.”
As the album progresses through the classically psychedelic ‘Instant Destiny’ and a freshly reworked (and much better) version of ‘Borderline’, Parker stops for a moment to reminisce, both lyrically and sonically, in ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’. Split into two halves – clearly representing the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ – Parker delivers some of the most gutwrenching lyrics yet heard on a Tame Impala album, about his late father. “While you still had time, you had a chance/But you decided to take all your sorrys to the grave,” he sings devastatingly.
It almost feels like he’s still grappling with grief, a process which is near impossible to define and completely non-linear. But, upon these words, it seems that Parker begins to understand that time works the same way. Despite how much society insists on defining time by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years, none of that really matters. We keep breathing until we don’t anymore. While that could be a macabre and depressing way to look at life, Parker embraces it as liberating.
Among the fluttering strums that open the gorgeous ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’, Parker sings: “There’s no use trying to relate to that old song/And no use trying to debate they’ve got it wrong.” In an album that feels very meta in that it’s almost being written about its own creation and delay, this is Parker referencing the apparent change in his sound and his career. He’s moving forward, he’s progressing and he’s taking it all in his very far stride.
The tone of the album shifts dramatically towards the end, with the electrifying and energetic hat trick of the ’90s-influenced ‘Is It True’, the relentlessly punchy ‘It Might Be Time’ and the aforementioned ‘Glimmer’. But, as we reach the album’s closer ‘One More Hour’, we can hear the pride in Parker’s voice. He made it, despite all the doubts he had at the beginning, through another year. He sits with his choices – “Whatever I’ve done, I did it for love, I did it for fun” – and reconciles with where he’s at. It’s his own Thelma & Louise moment – he’s sitting there, foot at the accelerator and arm around his lover with chaos behind him and uncertainty ahead of him. And, with one deep breath, he hits the pedal.
Currents saw Tame Impala and Kevin Parker grapple with the anxiety of change and the longing for control. In that way, The Slow Rush is both the perfect follow-up and counterpart. In those five years, Parker has been thrown into a tornado of dizzying personal and professional heights that he couldn’t have possibly prepared for. But now, as ‘One More Hour’ reaches its stunning finale, Parker has hit a compromise – give him a chance to be with himself and he’ll give you exactly what you deserve. It’s the comedown, the clarity and the understanding by which he defines his own life, his own career and his own story. And, if The Slow Rush is anything to go by, there’ll still be an ever-expanding legion of fans to read it.
The Slow Rush is out this Friday, February 14th. Tame Impala kick off their national tour this April with stops in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, before wrapping it up at home with a show in Perth. Head here for dates.