What You're Not Listening To

What You're Not Listening To

Catching Up With Tame Impala

June 01, 2020

Like so many other artists, plans for a huge summer tour in support of an another amazingly excellent new release have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is your chance to play catch up. #tameimpala #kevinparker #COVID19

Tame Impala is recording concept created by wunderkind Kevin Parker: he performs all the singing, writing, pre-production and playing on his studio releases himself, and has since the late-2000’s. He has seemingly done the impossible: build a steady and ever-growing fan base, starting off with straight up, hazy, gauzy, drug-induced psychedelic rock into a form of pop with some of those elements, but now draped in dance grooves and a smart, adult sensibility. Parker is thinking 1970’s and playing 2020’s.

Parker hails from literally the edge of the world: Perth, Australia. His first three albums of regular material, Innerspeaker, Lonerism and Currents, garnered truckloads of critical praise from a wide variety of publications, with even Vice magazine naming Tame Impala the “Artist of the 2010’s”. On these releases, he often relates themes of loss and loneliness; with his new album, The Slow Rush, Parker displays a type of emotional maturity without coming across as someone who is bitter because he is now in his 30’s.

Tame Impala at the Forum, Inglewood, California 03/10/20. Photo by Josh Beavers.

His singing style isn’t typical of dance acts or psychedelic rockers, either: it’s more gentle and conversational. His music follows a trend by just about every major artist of this decade: slower, more groove-and-rhythm based. It’s truly headphone music that wants to be played in your car or on the dance floor without being pushy. Even with the move toward more pop-oriented music with this latest release, the Tame Impala live show, where Parker employs some truly excellent musicians, are replete with a throwback to arena rock light shows, or not unlike that Pink Floyd tribute you see at the planetarium.

“No matter what else I do, I have to make sure that ‘Elephant’ isn’t Tame Impala’s biggest song anywhere.”Kevin parker, 2013

A fan of not just vintage tracks but of current acts as well, evidenced by his work with newer artists Hip-Hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott, among others. Parker is in that rare arena where categories of musicians are blurred. Tame Impala are one of the few consistent “rock and roll” album artists on the charts currently, which is slightly ironic, because he has openly admitted to stealing music from the internet in the past, and finds no fault in others doing the same with his releases. He also is looking forward to getting back on the road again, with his tour cut short in Los Angeles earlier this year to the pandemic.

Kevin Parker (all three images) performs “live” on the The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, May 2020. Courtesy of CBS Television.

Many in Tame Impala’s fanbase, though, often get Parker’s influences wrong, narrowly attributing solely to the Beatles, when Parker himself has said his biggest influence is Led Zeppelin, and lately, finding musical affinity with 1970’s pop artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, The Bee Gees and Todd Rundgren, which to older ears is completely obvious. Parker wears his influences on his sleeve so much that often it seems he has no other outfit. But listen closely, and you will hear the sound of an artist making his own way with their guidance.

First Part

* Is It True, 2020, The Slow Rush* Runway, Houses, City, Clouds, 2010, Innerspeaker* That’s All For Everyone, 2012,