‘The Slow Rush’ Is Tame Impala’s Most Introspective Album to Date
Tame Impala’s long-awaited album, ‘The Slow Rush,’ is a cosmic trip of understanding time and oneself, and Kevin Parker achieves it perfectly.
Feb 18, 2020
Tame Impala’s “The Slow Rush” was a full-bodied, mind-bending, psychedelic journey that I never wanted to end. Beginning with “One More Year” and ending with “One More Hour,” time is undeniably the theme of Kevin Parker’s latest work. Both in a buoyant and resistive way, Kevin Parker is fiercely seeking answers both in the past and the future.
“One More Year” sets the vibe for the entire voyage. It alarmingly reminds listeners, “We got a whole year / Fifty-two weeks / Seven days each” as if saying, “Wake up! We only have so much time in this world!”
That said, the song does not scare listeners with its dismaying observation. Instead, it dropped me into a black hole of morphed, dissected voices, and ever-so-slowly introduced me to the unwavering drums that endure throughout the album. These drums are so consistent in each track that it felt like each strike pulsated from my ears straight to my brain all the way to the tips of my toes. It’s a song meant to put Parker’s vocals and lyrics on a pedestal, and it succeeds. It sets the scene for the rest of the album, laying the groundwork behind Parker’s fears of the future and the anxiety of time. Perhaps Parker’s lyrical abilities aren’t the most poetic, but they get the point across.
Once the trademark Tame Impala synths are out in full force, they’re there to stay. “Posthumous Forgiveness” delivered cosmic synths that made me feel like I was floating down a time-traveling, groove-filled river of Parker’s airy vocals with twists and turns of drum licks and song fragments of sirens.
Parker also makes it a point to exhibit his talents as a hip hop producer who’s worked with the likes of Kanye West and Travis Scott. In “Lost in Yesterday” and “Breathe Deeper,” Parker incorporates 90s R&B rhythm and bass, which award the tracks a certain fluidity that grants the album a particular conceptual cohesion.
“Lost in Yesterday” is pure nostalgia on Parker’s part, focusing on his desire to relive the past in fear of what the future might bring. He opens “Lost in Yesterday” with “When we were livin’ in squalor, wasn’t it Heaven?” and repeating in the pre-chorus, “if they call you, embrace them / If they hold you, erase them,” singing about his memories.
By the time “Lost in Yesterday” ends, Parker’s grown to accept his nostalgia with self-assurance. “It Might Be Time” does not fear time, it embraces it, providing an optimistic break from uncertainty. This is much needed, considering the entire album bred a ponderous state of mind that made me reflect on how I’ve spent every breath of my life.
Following “It Might Be Time,” “Glimmer,” a disco-EDM compound, acts as the vessel for mental and emotional catharsis before the album comes to an end. It is lighthearted, full of bass and begins with “Crank the bass up.” Despite the cheesiness of the phrase, I couldn’t help but listen and dance to Parker’s joyous disco spirit.
“The Slow Rush” is 57 minutes of controlled chaos — of intricate, fervent, production-heavy sounds creating a tie-dye dream wrapped in nostalgia and uncertainty. It makes you feel like a space alien, or a Haight Ashbury hippie, probably a mix of the two. This album is much more diverse in influences than “Currents” or any of Parker’s past albums. Even though Parker remains true to prog-rock he’s known for, the synth-heavy sections can be mistaken for techno. And, at times, Parker’s acoustic guitar in “Tomorrow’s Dust” plays like an homage to folk rock. While “Currents” also speaks of self-transformation, Parker proves his growth not only as an artist, but in himself with “The Slow Rush.” The duality shown between his dreading of time and his appreciation for memories allows the experience of growth to be seen as a process, with each setback and realization proven in lyrics and melody. Tame Impala did not waste any time in those five years of production, and the outcome was more introspective and intoxicating than I could have imagined.
A version of this article appears in the Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, print edition. Email Ana Cubas at [email protected]