Tame Impala's 'The Slow Rush' is perfect summer lockdown listening
Updated: Aug 8, 2020
Five years in the making,The Slow Rush is perfect summer lockdown listening. Here's what it's all about.
On Valentines Day 2020, Tame Impala (led by 34-year-old Australian multi instrumentalist Kevin Parker) released The Slow Rush, a critically acclaimed alternative/electronic record with serious summer vibes. Like all the other Tame Impala records, it was love at first listen.
Over the coming months it provided an escape from the harsh realities of COVID-19 and had us dreaming of Californian sunshine, instead of rainy days in lockdown (of which there has been a few!).
The critics were also feeling it too. Pitchfork's 8.0 review described the album "as an extraordinarily detailed opus whose influences reach into specific corners of the past six decades, from Philly soul and early prog to acid house, adult-contemporary R&B, and Late Registration."
Stereogum, in their top list of 2020 albums so far, wrote that 'The Slow Rush sounds darker, more interior, more retro — a hallucinogenic swirl bridging the gap between Studio 54 and the Midwest arenas of the same era.'
Just a flavour of the high praise the album was receiving. Validation to listen on and that I did. The more I listened, a theme began to emerge. There's songs here that sound personal, sad, confessional, inspiring and melancholic. But what exactly was Kevin singing about?
The album is all about time
The album is essentially all about time, the consistent theme running through the album. It's about the past, present or future and challenging doubts you might have about them.
Whilst Kevin is doing a good impression of a life coach throughout, he hasn't quite worked it out for himself either. The slow rush of time is coming for us all.
The top tracks to get into
After a few listens, many of the tracks emerged as favourites. The ones you add to your playlists, and, well, the album is full of them.
One More Year
The hypnotic opening track 'One More Year' is all about being stuck in a rut and worrying about time passing you by. It's something many of us feel.
In a line strikingly familiar to many working adults, Kevin Parker sings about being on ‘rollercoaster, stuck on its loop-de-loop, ‘cause what we did, one day on a whim, has slowly become, all we do’.
What seemed an exciting move at the time, can suddenly become the dreaded new normal. And let's be honest, we've all been there. That dead end job with no progress, that feeling you are regressing, the routine you despise but go along with anyway.
Parker offers a solution. Why not just say you'll only do this for one more year and then move on? The fix is gradually working towards your goal.
Instant Destiny & Is It True
On 'Instant Destiny', Parker sings about the craziness of settling down (he married his girlfriend Sophie Lawrence last year) and making plans that will last a lifetime. The future terrifies him, he just wants to just live in the here and now.
Later in the album, on 'Is It True', he reveals his fear of waking up with a change of heart towards his wife.
He loves her at the moment but will it last? On the last line of the song he's still undecided, ‘we’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see…’. Amazing honesty in the lyrics of this one and you have to wonder what his wife has made of it!
A rare guitar riff is heard on 'Posthumous Forgiveness', a song about Kevin Parker’s dead father. It's a deeply personal track, one which can't be an easy one to perform.
Kevin begins by berating the actions of his selfish father, who left his mother and abandoned young Kevin when he was just a child.
Kevin reveals his anger towards his father who never made an effort to apologise and reconnect with him when he got older. He decided ’to take all his sorrys to the grave’.
The song then stops two-thirds in and restarts with a more melancholic tone. On reflection, he tries to understand his fathers actions and forgive him.
He wishes his dad was there for him now so he could see what has become of his son.
To his father he sings, ‘I wanna tell you ‘bout the time, wanna tell you ‘bout my life’, wanna play you all my songs, and hear your voice sing along’.
Time, as they say, is a healer. It's a perfect end to what is an emotional song.
It Might Be Time
'It Might Be Time' is a reality check. Kevin Parker questions his own relevance as a performer now he’s in his 30s. It's a theme many performers have faced over the years, echoes of LCD Soundsystem's 'Losing My Edge'.
He declares that ’it might be time to face it, you ain’t as fun as used to be, you won’t recover, you ain’t as cool as you used to be’. Relatable words for someone only a year younger than him? Not for me to say...
He’s revealing his own paranoid thoughts about growing old and comparing himself to his peers who are moving on with their lives.
Later on, he comes to realise that ‘you may as well embrace it’ and accepts the situation. Live life by your standards, not others. And that's a good message to anyone in that situation.
Lost in Yesterday & On Track
The uptempo 'Lost in Yesterday', with its undoubted groove and funky bass-line, is one of the most memorable on the record.
In the chorus, Parker tackles nostalgia and regret, asking the listener, ’does it help to get lost in yesterday?’.
You can’t change what’s happened in the past so why dwell on the bad memories? Instead, you should embrace these experiences as they make you who you are.
He concludes that ‘eventually, terrible memories turn into great ones’, which is a nice, hopeful line to take away. I'm liking the positive message here.
Parker is inspired by Meatloaf on 'On Track', a song which starts off as a slow piano-led ballad before a build-up of synths and drums. It’s about getting over past setbacks and persevering with your life goals.
It's funny, I despised this song at first, visualising end credits to a corny American film. But over time it wore me down and I no longer feel the need to skip it. That's the sign of a good song, right?
Why did it take so long for this new album?
After 2015, years passed and it was all quiet on the Tame Impala front. Instead, Kevin Parker was busy collaborating with artists such as The Weeknd, Kanye West and Travis Scott. There was also the (small) matter of getting married.
But where was the new album? Settling down and now a successful producer, fans were fearing the album would never come.
How dare Kevin have other life plans.
That was until Spring 2019, of course. In the lead up to his Coachella headline set, Tame Impala released a couple of teaser tracks, the aptly named 'Patience', and 'Borderline'.
A summer release was on the cards, or was it? Nope, not too be. More delays. More hair being torn out by the Tame Impala fan club.
Behind the scenes, Parker was obsessively producing the album in his LA studio, missing deadline after deadline in the strive for perfection. That's just the character of the guy.
Finally, in February 2020, The Slow Rush dropped and the five-year wait was over. Hurrah!
Fans around the world rejoiced and the verdict was positive. The album continued where Currents left off, with a smooth psychedelic sound inspired by R&B, house and disco.
Each song features layers of sound, detailed composition, all performed, mixed and produced by Kevin Parker. Not a helping hand insight.
Who is Kevin Parker/Tame Impala?
Over the past decade, Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala has released four critically acclaimed albums, changing style and theme from album to album.
With origins in the Perth indie scene, Parker now finds himself a part of the LA mainstream, all done without ever compromising his integrity or creativity.
That's not bad going for an introverted stoner from 'Down Under'!
Both 2010 debut Innerspeaker and 2012 follow up Lonerism are 60s inspired psych-rock records which reached instant cult classic status.
Currents was released three years later and featured a more polished and confident electronic and R&B sound.
It swept up so much praise at the time and pushed his popularity to a level he wasn’t prepared for.
It was so popular even Rihanna began covering tracks from it on her 2016 Anti album. I mean, who saw that one coming?
The question remains whether The Slow Rush will stand the test of time alongside his earlier, and more diverse, back catalogue. Time will tell but the early signs are positive.
The Slow Rush may have gone under the radar a few months after it was released, but, as summer has entered the fray, it's one that's still getting constant streams from this blogger.
Album of the year? Not quite, but it's in the top 10 so far.
You can listen to the full album below or on the Spotify app here.