2012 was the year that saw Australian five-piece (or Kevin Parker solo project) Tame Impala really moved into the spotlight. Having already released the stunning debut album Innerspeaker in 2010 following a string of acclaimed EPs, Lonerism saw the band expand their sound into a collective concept, and creating some mind blowing tunes in the process.
Lonerism is an album that does what it says on the tin; it’s an album about isolation, about loneliness, and in many cases, about that guy stood apart from the crowds at a house party. Hell, even the cover shows a wall of bars separating the viewer from the general public. But it’s also an album that feels incredibly youthful and naive, not just from the narrator’s point of view, but also in the people that surround him. ‘Nothing ever changes, no matter how long you do your hair’ Parker croons on ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, while at the same time subverting his own thoughts just a second later: ‘Everything is changing, I guess I should warn my mum’. It flits between ideas, forever indecisive and almost scared of what the future might hold.
With this conceptual outline of this ‘loner’ Parker paints a wonderful picture over hazy guitars and erratic drums. ‘I just don’t know where the hell I belong’ he moans on ‘Mind Mischief’, and insecurity is built upon as this character drifts through life encountering more head strong characters. The other party goers in ‘Keep On Lying’, the titular ‘Elephant’, and pretty much every woman in his love life. In fact, this can be summed up nicely in the first verse of ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’:
“It feels like we only go backwards baby
Every part of me says go ahead
I’ve got my hopes up again, oh no, not again
It feels like we only go backwards baby”
Sexual insecurity, social insecurity; it’s no wonder sites like the NME and Urban Outfitters loved this record. Its foundations lie within that young adult/college student psyche, and indeed, found the band new fans within. It seemed that, lyrics aside, Parker was revisiting his own youthful, musical urges. Having always been a long time fan of Pop music, Parker dabbled in the genre while creating Lonerism, something he would exploit further in his follow up album, Currents. While people can be quick to scorn the use of such a genre, the results are pretty freaking great. Without this mantra we may not have had songs like ‘Elephant’, with its ever so catchy bass line, or ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ with perhaps the best vocal riff on the entire album. Pop flows deep within the veins of Lonerism, and that’s a damn good thing.
Perhaps it’s Parker’s clash of musical cultures that have lead to some of the most memorable musical characteristics of this album. The snare drums makes up a huge amount of the percussive effect, most notably on ‘Ender Toi’, an epic jam which shows off Kevin Parker’s often hidden drum skills. The synthesizers are woozy and dream like, building on what Tame Impala had already established in their previous efforts, however here we’re treated to layer upon layer, wave upon wave of oozing keys. Perhaps the best examples can be found in ‘Sun’s Coming Up’ or ‘Apocalypse Dreams’. Then there are the bass lines which, on this album, are absolutely phenomenal. I mean, you can take any track on this record, and the bass line will nearly automatically come to the forefront. The chugging backings of ‘Elephant’, the rhythm carrier on ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, or the meandering lines in ‘Why Won’t They Talk To Me?’, all are just brilliant.
I don’t want to call it too soon, but Lonerism might just be Tame Impala’s magnum opus. While Innerspeaker and Currents are both accessible and enjoyable efforts, neither really match the sheer excellence of Lonerism. The concept, the sounds, the lyricism; everything is here to make this, not only Tame Impala’s finest release, but also potentially one of the best albums of the decade.
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