There was a time when it seemed that Tame Impala was going to be a really good band. Back a decade ago or so, the Aussie outfit (which is another one of those bands that is really just one guy's solo project) came out sounding like John Lennon had joined a collective of modern psychedelicists who were looking to find new ways to space out in the rock dimension. It was pretty good stuff, and it seemed like they had the potential to delve further into that vibe to an even more successful degree, eventually. Instead, they're a disco band, now.
This isn't to knock disco — or, at least, good disco. What's gone wrong, here, is that Tame Impala have become a synth-abusing dance band that sounds like they desperately want to be played on boring radio stations, and they also want to be a band that challenges absolutely no one. Their latest record, "The Slow Rush," is comprised of one song after another that recalls nothing in particular, but sounds somehow like all the bad '80s songs in existence pressed together into a ball of genericism. It's just shake-your-booty pap.
What is this nonsense? You hate to ding someone for following their muse, but that early Tame Imp stuff was warm and inviting and humanistic and melodic. Now, their music is cold and generic and repetitive and bloodless. It seems as if leader Kevin Parker has completely given up and just decided his best play is to make his version of Top 40 dance music and hope that Beyonce eventually gives him a call to do some production for her.
Fact is, he's had plenty of success over the last decade, and there's been no real backlash to his turn towards dance music. He's out there with his hired hands playing festivals, getting nominated for awards, and going on "Saturday Night Live," so he's probably not sitting around second-guessing himself. But "The Slow Rush" suggests he should try it.
This isn't as bad as, say, the recent Green Day album (the review of which triggered a fair amount of both positive and negative mail from DNT readers, by the way), and it's probably going to be reviewed well by outlets like Pitchfork, who will probably act like it's this brilliant thing that doesn't sound like the offspring of every other record made by every other pop band in the Reagan era. It's not hot garbage, but it's sonic wallpaper of the highest order.
The tremolo effect on opener "One More Year" will probably blow the minds of people who are impressed easily, and the '90s Madchester throwback beat will probably be a great thing to shake a glow stick to at the Naked Bear Mountaineering Brewfest and Music Gathering or whatever those things are called. But it is without substance. It's like a Madonna song where a falsetto-voiced guy without any of Madonna's magnetism takes the vocal.
"Instant Destiny" boasts cheesy synth horns, burbling, busy production, and some kind of P. Diddy energy that just sounds like capitalism turning an open prairie into an Amazon fulfillment center.
Okay, that's probably going too far. It's just music. But there's something about it that feels meaningless, like it's just being created solely to give people in cubicles something to update their resumes to. It's music that doesn't seem like it's being made by a passionate person. It's surely not the case — Parker no doubt loves what he's doing, but he certainly wouldn't be the first person in history to release a bad album while thinking it's a great one. "The Slow Rush" isn't worth hating, but how could anyone truly love it?
Artist: Tame Impala
Album: "The Slow Rush"
Produced by: Kevin Parker
Personnel: Kevin Parker (everything)
Tony Bennett reviews albums for the News Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.