Music: Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerism’

AS YOU might have deduced from the name, this is an album about isolation. On 2010’s Innerspeaker, Tame Impala told us that ‘Solitude is Bliss. Here, they seem to have done a bit more thinking and come to the conclusion that it’s a bit more complicated than that. In that respect, Lonerism might even be an album about thinking. These songs are made for the mind, they rumble along a certain train of thought and then change, unexpectedly but inevitably, like a flash of inspiration. It is music for those lost in thought, who are only a tiny bit curious about the idea of getting found again.

The sound isn’t drastically different from anything else by Tame Impala – it is psychedelic rock given a modern, electronic sheen. That’s not meant in any way to mean it’s generic. Like authors with fairy-tales, a lot of bands go back to the late sixties looking for a time when rock showed a bit more love for fantasy, a more adventurous desire to explore the inner recesses of the mind. Everyone returns from their retro-fishing with something different. Radiohead dipped into Pink Floyd and returned with cold, claustrophobic, paranoid beauty. Tame Impala’s foray brings back more of the Beatles’ sonic trippery. There is the cosy introversion, and that tone of stoned languor which lingers even when the drums are pounding urgently and the guitars are sweeping our ears up to the stars. Frontman Kevin Parker even sounds like John Lennon. With the density of the production, most of the songs are thankfully more ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ than ‘Octopus’ Garden’, but with titles like ‘Mind Mischief,’ the psychedelic spirit of playfulness is not lost, even if it is displayed more by a bassy bounce than lyrical silliness.

Perhaps it is telling that the lead single and standout track, ‘Elephant’, is both the least serious and the most immediately physical. The first minute of the song gives you a primitive, seductive bassline that will have many trunks shaking, and for me it is the best part of the album. They cheekily whisper ‘here it comes’ before diving into what they clearly consider to be the meat of the song, a swirling stack of guitar sound that eventually climbs above the clouds to be met by a yammering organ. Happily, this is always grounded by that throbbing, animalistic rhythm, which prevents TI from getting too freaked out and cerebral on us.

I don’t mean that that cerebral nature, that self-professed focus on spiritual, solitary mind-bending, is at all a bad thing. If you let it, Lonerism will whisk you away in its little spaceship on a trip through the multi-coloured clouds of Kevin’s head and out into the cosmos, and it will be glorious. I’m just glad he came down to earth long enough to give us something to dance to.