What on earth possesses a quartet of young Australian bucks to turn their backs on trend, plain good sense and – who knows? - the attentions of a legion young ladies to throw themselves into a painstaking recreation of murky 60s psychedelic rock? It can’t be the glitz and glamour, and let’s face facts, they can’t be driven by an insatiable desire to hear cash tills ringing. It must be love.
Tame Impala stooge around Perth, cut off from the rest of the country by a considerable expanse, and this isolation oozes from their music. Emerging on Modular in 2008 with a buzzy home-taped EP, they sounded like a relic, like the last 40 years hadn’t happened. A couple of years in the semi-spotlight hasn’t changed their attitude. Innerspeaker, their debut LP, seems to have been scraped off Jimi Hendrix’s Cuban heels.
What’s most impressive is how this façade has been sustained over not only an initial five-track EP, but now an hour-long album. There’s little sense that Innerspeaker could’ve been etched out in the 21st century. Fuzz and distortion colour the whole record, preserving the rough and ready garage tone of that self-titled EP - and indeed ‘Desire Be Desire Go’ survives the journey from Extended to Long Play, still taking the odd whacked-out excursion to Alpha Centauri but essentially barreling along with a tight, drilled-down groove.
It’s when they’re hitting a rhythm that Tame Impala are most engaging, whether mulching up Sly Stone guitar and James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’ beat to make unlikely reggae funk with ‘Solitude Is Bliss’, or finding a magnetic chorus in ‘I Don’t Really Mind’ and boosting it with handclaps. There’s more adventure in this kind of catchiness than in the bloated blues of ‘The Bold Arrow Of Time’ or Mooged psychedelia of ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind’.
But they’re clearly drawn to the mild wig-outs rather than the more taut grooves. It’s a pity because, when they hit a cherishable gallop on ‘Runway, Houses, City, Clouds’ or a heads-down boogie on ‘Lucidity’, and singer Kevin Parker does his best John Lennon – and, by Christ, it’s a great John Lennon – when all that aligns, Tame Impala sound like contenders. The rest of the time, there’s a touch too much of the lovable stoner about them. Good to have around now and then to share some crazy ideas, but they don’t half go on.
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