The Slow Rush (Modular)
Well hello grandpa disco!
Kevin Parker has ridden a lot – and I mean, a lot – of critical acclaim alongside the peer-love and plenty more than decent sales for his Tame Impala project. It was well earned and in the main justified.
A songwriter, player and producer whose vision has been hired, emulated, or straight out copied, Parker looked like the man most likely to sleep through a meeting but in reality was the one most likely to control the agenda.
Proof of this is that initially a band, but for a long time now a one-man operation, Tame Impala has become shorthand for a style of music (trippy pop you must move to, in various guises) and the sound of a city (Perth), even as it has evolved from psychedelic rock, through gentle ecstasy nightclubs, to what now clearly is middle of the road grooving.
And yes, you will be saying “groovy” while listening to an album which settles for the comforter a little too often even as it suggests the comforting came from something stronger than milky tea.
In this atmosphere, the guitars which on Tame Impala albums have been edging out to the back of the room for a while are half out the door in deference; the drums, which more and more have been guided rather than pounded, pretty much settle into a gliding rhythm that suggest polished wooden floors and soft shoes; the vocals, which have never asserted themselves in any traditional way, offer a sense of diffused light and oversized sunglasses.
In other words, for the first seven tracks you can, and probably will, find yourself doing a kind of wispy arm waving/eyes closed/beatific smile moves from your chair. Not quite letting go but feeling like if you wanted to, if you could rouse yourself up and shuck off that misbuttoned cardi, man you could really recreate one of those great nights from the dawn of time/early 20s uni years.
From track 8 onwards though, it’s almost wild, the contrast so bold it can only lead to a call to shake off those slippers and go!
Lost In Yesterday, which has a played-high-on-the-chest bassline that must have been tempting to deploy with slap instead of fingers and a brisker than usual beat, and Is It True, which makes a full play for the dancefloor with a bass part Bernard Edwards might have enjoyed against the foursquare drums, lift the tempo and the interplay of old and very old synth sounds.
It Might Be Time, while it begins with clavichord-like keyboards that suggest mellow Stevie Wonder, puts some crunch in the mix via a paisley shirt psych drum break and then a blend of siren and snorting synth sounds. Careful here, the drugs may well be working.
But The Slow Rush normal service resumes with the Chic-meets-Air airy disco of Glimmer, which at two minutes is not only the shortest by far song on the record but virtually is relegated to being an entrée for the closing seven minutes of One More Hour.
That track merges McCartney-like pomp rock phases (Orchestration! Now sweet-turning-to-heavy! Here punchy drums! And more romantic melody!) with what you might call signature Parker dreamscape overlays. But even then it’s mostly still at the gently nodding stage of activity.
This is an attractive album, for sure. If you’re looking for a mood piece, a soundtrack to blissful reverie, it’s here. But Parker is slipping further and further away from music to grab you and hold you.