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Tame Impala - Innerspeaker (2010)

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Genre - Pop

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Code - OD-K-67742


From the Vines to Wolfmother to Jet, recent Aussie rock exports have been painfully indebted to arena rock-- quick to recycle a sound but rarely succeeding in revitalizing it. Perth three-piece Tame Impala play with some of the ingredients of arena rock as well but do so in aid of more leftfield, organic sounds and interesting excursions. The result is a cleanly executed and frequently dazzling debut: Innerspeaker is a psychedelia-heavy outing that toys with paisley pop, stoner vibes, and an expansive array of swirling guitars.

On first listen, Innerspeaker provides a lot of dots to connect: There are patches of late-60s American psychedelia, buzzy Motor City riffage, and decades of British pop, ranging from the pastoral pop of the Kinks to the vivid expansiveness of the Verve to the narcotic warmth of the Stone Roses. Frontman Kevin Parker shares an eerie vocal similarity with John Lennon, both in tone and in the way he allows his voice to soar with each melodic turn or rhythmic surge. Though most of the album is a little restrained lyrically, Parker's rapturous phrasing conveys the meaning. Mixed by Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann, each component is here is set on an even plane, allowing bass lines and delay-swept guitar bursts to melt into one another, cultivating a uniform feel that's vintage, far-out, and irrepressibly cool.

By all accounts, fixing their gaze so intently on established influences should play as either disingenuous or forced. It's difficult to be so plugged-in to a vintage feel without the music seeming time-capsuled, but the band's vibrance help these songs sound very much alive. Tame Impala aren't taking a purely revisionist approach-- you aren't left with a feeling that their intention was recreate some lost Love demo or an Jimi Hendrix Experience deep cut. If anything, their record points to some of the same roads traveled recently by bands like Animal Collective or Liars, but dials back the eccentricities and difficulty level, leaning on the guitar rather than electronics, and focusing their efforts through more traditional pysch-rock prisms. They aren't as adventurous as their more offbeat peers, but because of their lazer-guided hooks and tangible pleasures, they might wind up reaching more people.

This is very much an album's album-- it sounds best as a piece, where you can get lost in its heady expanse. With the kaleidoscopic stereo-panning on "Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?" or the maddening stomp on "Bold Arrow of Time", Innerspeaker demonstrates a subtle yet encompassing sense of control, never obstructing the grander motifs while still offering a variety of odd details that guide you back to the album's hooks. There aren't any standout singles on Innerspeaker in the sense that it's unlikely that people are going to be asking you to throw on certain tracks by name (though if in a pinch, "Expectation" and "Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?" should suffice nicely). But when an album is able to tinker with and update familiar textures and moods without blurring the lines too much or just plain overdoing it, you can believe that psych fans will be asking for it to be thrown on regardless. If you're smart, you'll oblige them.

— Zach Kelly, May 28, 2010

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