Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular Fontana)
By Scott Creney
If this review were running in the NME 20 years ago, it would be titled ‘Perth Defects’. [‘Down Blunder’? – ex-Melody Maker Ed]
Let’s start with the first song. It’s one of the best.
Lonerism is definitely not a turgid pile of shit. It’s actually pretty good. And in some places it’s damn near excellent. Whether that’s enough or not depends on your standards and your medicine cabinet. The album is relentlessly, at times oppressively, psychedelic, but in a compressed overstuffed way. It creates disorder through technology and effects as much as mood. Through hissing phasers and splashed reverb, its slowed-down cymbals sound like crashing southward waves landing on Perth, sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks.
The sound’s pretty easy to peg — all Sgt. Pepper Lennon crossed with early 70s Rundgren, almost ELO at times — but the songs operate more like dance/electronic music, burrowing their way out of extended passages of repetition. They progress through different textures rather than verse/chorus/bridge.
‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ is the gem. If somebody does an 18-minute extended dub remix of it, let me know and I will personally send that person a quarter.
Quarter is shorthand for a quarter-pound of PCP. Just so we’re clear on that.
There’s a sameness of sound that works against the album. By the time ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’ rolls around, I’m sick of hearing that same goddamn cymbal splash coupled with the bass fill from ‘Paperback Writer’ over and over and over again. I’m tempted to say that Tame Impala doesn’t have a style so much as three or four tricks that they keep repeating. The 51 minutes of Lonerism begs for a bit of variety. It’s too much of the same thing at the same tempo and I keep losing myself bored. And there’s nothing mind-expanding or psychedelic about that. Or to put it another way, it’s the psychedelia of sitting around your friend’s teenage bedroom smoking shitty weed, listening to people say the most banal shit, and wishing you could leave.
‘Elephant’ has a great monster chord change though. But still, its heaviness is laughable compared to say, Comets On Fire.
But that’s it for the best songs. The rest are all pretty mushy in a melodic/harmonic/rhythm sense. The album ends with a piano ballad and finally the cymbal guy gets a rest. This isn’t a bad album, not by any stretch. But it’s barely even halfway to being a great one, and one has to wonder if Tame Impala have the desire, or the imagination, to ever make that album. The stoner kids back in high school were always perfectly content to pull down the B-minus.
If this were the NME 20 years ago, there would be an 8/10 at the bottom of this review.