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June 15, 2024

Tame Impala’s album is a Slow Rush of emotions

By BRANDT MATTHEWS | February 27, 2020

ABBY GILLARDI/CC BY-S.A 2.0 The 2018 California wildfires left Tame Impala no choice but to leave behind thousands of dollars of equipment.

In order to fully appreciate The Slow Rush, I think it’s important to take a moment to look back on the long journey that has led to this album’s release. When Tame Impala was announced as a Coachella headliner in late 2018, the anticipation for their follow-up to their immaculate 2015 album Currents came to a head. But as the months passed without a release date or first single, fans became nervous. 

The performance of a new song, “Borderline,” on Saturday Night Live in late March last year and the release of the single “Patience” whipped up album speculation once again as fans considered if Kevin Parker (the musical brain behind Tame Impala) was going to pull a Kendrick Lamar. Lamar had just the year prior released his album DAMN. two days before a headlining Coachella set that has since become the stuff of legend. But when the weekend of Coachella finally came, “Borderline” was released on digital and was the only new song performed by the band. 

It wouldn’t be until May that fans would learn what may have messed up such a perfect release window for Parker. The previous November, he had been recording in an Airbnb in Malibu when wildfires swept the Los Angeles hills. 

He ended up having to make a swift evacuation, grabbing nothing but his hard drive and the Hofner bass guitar he’s written every Tame Impala song on. The property, along with $30,000 of recording instruments and equipment were ultimately destroyed. Parker would later relay in interviews that he had expected to return to the property later that day to continue recording, so one can only imagine what a loop he was thrown for.

But at last, a little over a year after hype around Tame Impala really began to build, we’ve received The Slow Rush. Parker continues to experiment with the psych-rock sound he’s become renowned for, mixing heavy synths and guitars to take listeners into a calm space. 

While there’s plenty of what fans love, there’s also significant moments of experimentation on the record. Across the board, songs are longer than previous Tame records and standard musical trends. 

This allows for some breathing room — more abrupt beat switches and sampled spoken word bridge songs in interesting ways. With this, the sound and mood shift throughout from the lushly built-up synth and piano breakdown of “Breathe Deeper” to the spare instrumentals that carry Parker’s vocals through “One More Hour.” 

If you were hoping for a spiritual successor to “Elephant,” the Lonerism track that easily ranks as Tame Impala’s rowdiest, I’m sad to report you won’t find it here. However, there’s no shortage of songs that I already can’t wait to hear live from the mood swinging “Instant Destiny” to the instant classic “It Might Be Time.” 

For all of Parker’s musical talents (he writes, arranges, composes and mixes every Tame Impala song), it may be surprising to consider the lyrical content to be this album’s greatest feat. 

Whereas Currents followed the journey of a broken relationship healing with time, The Slow Rush delves into a myriad of topics. This allows Parker to flex his writing a bit with simple yet hard hitting lyrics. 

On “Lost in Yesterday,” a meditation on nostalgia and moving forward, he sings, “Now even though that was a time I hated from day one / eventually, terrible memories turn into great ones,” showcasing the particularity of memory and the danger of fixating on the past. 

On “Posthumous Forgiveness,” a monster of a third single at just over six minutes detailing Parker’s difficulty reconciling with the memory of his deceased father, he sings, “While you still have time, you had a chance / but you decided to take all your sorrys to the grave,” striking at both the frustration and deep sorrow of a relationship cut short. 

It’s this consideration of potential that ties together The Slow Rush, with its curious focus always circling back to cerebral themes like shifting time and personal expectations. 

With this connecting strand, Parker has turned in another classic for Tame Impala. If you want to catch them live, they’ll be playing with Perfume Genius at Capital One arena in D.C. on Saturday, June 6.

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