Somewhere in the midst of my adolescence I went through my obligatory Nirvana phase. I prayed at the altar of St. Cobain and meditated on platitudinal words of wisdom from the man. One particular quote however has remained with me and remains one of the few intellectual tokens of my oh-so-wasted youth. Riffing on a Krist Novoselic tangent, he mentioned that “there’s no generation gap any more, because the kids and the parents like the same music and it’s really frightening to us”.
As I grew older and the people I knew split into their chosen cliques and factions, the truer Kurt’s words became. Every hipster you’ve ever met was wearing something with Lou Reed on it and most teenagers have Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Who wedged in between Kanye West, The White Stripes and The Shins on their iTunes playlists. The records you think are cool are the records your parents thought were cool and you think that all of today’s music is just a little worse than it was thirty or forty years ago. Regardless, all of today’s music is only ripping off yesterday’s anyway. That much you know.
Enter Tame Impala. The Perth four-piece is symbolic of this obliteration of the generation gap, essentially playing their parents’ music for a living. Their self-titled debut EP set the cogs of the hype machine spinning. Now their debut LP Innerspeaker is set to ‘make psych-rock cool again’ or some shit. “I don’t think of it as happy ’60s sunshine music. It’s delirious, alone music” Kevin Parker, lead singer and chief songwriter said of the album. Not much we know, so off we go.
Innerspeaker is self-confessedly Kevin Parker’s attempt to compete with the music coming out of his hometown scene. Parker has his heart and mind set on a categorically lo-fi sound. Somewhere beneath the lushly orchestrated wah, fuzz, distortion and hum is the music of the spheres.
The album’s largest obstacle is proving itself to be more than simply 60s pastiche. Looking past its chocolate box art-cover, it fairs well; it is truly the product of its makers. For the most part, it’s a crying howl from every corner of the teenage heart. Chasing the sounds in his head, Kevin Parker finds his catharsis.
The album opens with ‘It is Not Meant to Be’ and we’re over a minute into it before we hear our first lyric. Parker’s ever-doubletracked voice is the creepy echo of John Lennon singing through a vacuum hose. The song’s refrain “I wanted her…” prepares us for an album full of laments, tumults and desperations all in the pursuit of teenage kicks. This is followed by a foolishly re-recorded ‘Desire Be, Desire Go’. What it now lacks in caustic-guitar driven muscle, it makes up for in a bottom end. Though no amount of EQ makes up for the ridiculous organ backing.
The scope of the album is surprising. Songs like ‘Alter Ego’ and ‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds’ sound like mid-90s big beat. The multi-octave riffs blur the line between guitar and modular synthesiser and recall early Chemical Brothers.
Instrumental ‘Jeremy’s Storm’ is a weak point as long as it insists on being a pseudo-country jam. Towards the end, when the band lets loose is when the song redeems itself, becoming a marriage of Motor City noise and sci-fi ambiance.
This is followed by the big single ‘Solitude is Bliss’ – the most spiteful song on the album. The soundtrack to every fort you’ve ever built, whether made of bed linen or things less tangible. “Company’s okay, solitude is bliss” sings Parker. Right on. He regards isolation as absolution: “I’ll be the one that’s free” he lets out. Lines like “You will never come close to how I feel” and “There’s a party in my head and no one is invited” aren’t so much ‘one stoner said to the other’ as they are the spiteful words of someone whose pain is indicative of higher ideals (no pun intended).
‘Expectation’ sums the album up as a whole. It should be listened to as a whole, anyway. Tame Impala refuse to keep anything grounded; everything must soar, though sometimes, just for fun, they release their grip and you’re in freefall, but never for long. There’s always a drum fill or vocal break to keep your feet from touching the ground.
We end with ‘I Don’t Really Mind’, which leaves us in an elucidated trance if there ever was such a thing.
Innerspeaker is closer in character and spirit to Daft Punk’s Discovery than any of the neo-psychedelic tripe that’s floating around today. Borrowing Supertramp’s keyboards, the MC5’s guitars, Todd Rundgren’s words and structures, Phil Spector’s production, Britpop’s riffs and The Beatles’ everything. But youth is stubborn and it permeates the entire album, no matter what year Innerspeaker sounds like it’s from. The spirit most reflected in the lyrics keeps this album tied to the present day. Tame Impala imbue their fusion with a quality that’s distinctly modern and a spirit that’s fiery and utterly vivacious.