Music Reviews
The Slow Rush

Tame Impala The Slow Rush

(Universal Music Australia) Rating - 8/10

Kevin Parker is consistently out of step with musical trends, and it’s one of the best things he has going for him. Back around the turn of the ‘10s when bands like Cut Copy, Hot Chip, Foster the People, Phoenix, and M83 were tearing up the alternative music scene with neon, guitar-inflected synthpop, Parker and Company countered with groovy neo-psychedelia and hazy, Zeppelin-esque riffage. Tame Impala’s work was all the better for it, as they proved to not only be a diamond in the rough of indie rock, but of music in general, with their masterful 2012 sophomore effort Lonerism. I still regularly listen to that album, as well as the band’s scruffier 2010 debut Innerspeaker. While 2015's Currents is terrific in its own right, it did mark a noticeable shift in Parker’s sound. On that album, guitars took a back seat to keyboards and drum machines, making for a listening experience eerily evocative of the artists and albums that dominated the indie zeitgeist half a decade prior. Where Lonerism dipped its toe into dancey electronics while remaining a psych-rock album first and foremost, Currents dove head-first into a pool of modular synthesizers. And now, with The Slow Rush, Tame Impala are swimming laps.

I’m not sure if dancey alt-pop ever up and died, but in 2020, it certainly doesn’t feel anywhere near as prevalent as it once did. For Parker to drop an album drenched in poppy, blippy synths and proggy, lounge-ready disco at a time when acts like Big Thief and Weyes Blood have staked their flags atop Mt. Indie feels a bit incongruous, but also oddly refreshing. Because while The Slow Rush is undeniably an electronic pop album, it doesn’t teeter so far off into club banger territory that it taints Tame Impala’s established aesthetic. Rather, it accentuates their love for sonic texture.

Opener One More Year makes no qualms about this. From the shutter effect on Parker’s vocals surfing in the background (“Oneeeeee, mooooore, yearrrrrrrr”) to the Madchester synth line, that track kicks the album off on cloud nine. I also adore the finger snaps and key stabs on Breathe Deeper, now almost a trademark of Tame Impala. In fact, every track on The Slow Rush can bring the most psychedelic of the psych kids to the dancefloor, or bring the most raged-out EDM kids to the smoking room. Either/or. Not to mention the explosive, climactic closing cut One More Hour, a glorious seven-minute romp of bass blasts and blissful melody that Parker rides like a rollercoaster.

I understand that some may be skeptical of the band’s stylistic shift here, because it is a dramatic one compared to their earlier work. And upon first listen, I wasn’t exactly hot on this LP myself. But rest assured—and this is kind of the bottom line here—that, after playing The Slow Rush ad nauseum in the days since it released, I’ve gotten to a point where I can’t help but sing or hum or nod along to almost every track. At 58 minutes, it does run a little long—and I probably would’ve cut songs like On Track or the two-minute flatliner Glimmer. But every time I’ve started this album since it clicked with me, I’ve finished it. Isn’t that the most you can ask of any record?