If Tame Impala were to be named anything else, it should probably be — hear me out — Time Impala. After all, frontman Kevin Parker’s personal perspective on the concept of time is perhaps his greatest asset as a lyricist and overall musician. The reclusive, indecisive, and perfectionistic artist finds fulfillment in what many would find grueling, confounding, and pointless. Perpetually bending the limits of time and viewing the past, present, and future from different angles, the production of a Tame Impala record is surely nothing short of a rumination vacation.
Nostalgia is a very human feeling, but Parker compares it to a drug. And those among us who most frequently indulge in the high of its bittersweetness tend to be some of the truest Tame fans. It’s just a fact that, beyond their appeal to pretty much anyone who likes music, Tame Impala has been established as an idol for overthinking and over-feeling loners. I mean, there’s literally an album titled Lonerism, a song titled “Solitude Is Bliss,” and “The Less I Know the Better” has become a dance anthem for disillusioned lovers.
Thus, a lot of reflection, solitude, and doubt interact in the studio before there’s an output that comes close to meeting the standards of what the solo multi-instrumentalist would be proud to present as a Tame Impala album. Parker wants nothing to do with the impurities that could infiltrate his mind from any outside influences. When it comes to listening to other music while making a record, well, he can’t. As he said in an interview with Apple Music, “It sounds too good.”
Instead, he’ll seclude himself for days at a time, sometimes renting out different homes in different cities. However, it’s not for the purpose of gaining inspiration from the atmosphere. Parker said geography shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
All of these factors and more are what make the sheer introspective nature of Tame Impala resonate so well with their fanbase. The band speaks to people who would rather cozy up and self-reflect than bounce off of what others are doing. The music is unafraid to reexamine the past and how it plugs into the future.
“Do you remember we were standing here a year ago?
Our minds were racing and time went slow.”
If Parker were to be speaking to the fans in the opening lines of the new record, then yes: About a year ago was when we were all really starting to wonder when we’d finally hear about new tunes. But with a half-decade hiatus between Currents and The Slow Rush, the new decade has at last gifted us with fresh Tame Impala. And it was, indeed, a slow rush in terms of its production. Although Parker was busy touring (and getting married!) in the interim, he only began working on the LP toward the end of 2018, leaving a tight timeline for the notoriously indecisive artist.
Since The Slow Rush was unveiled this Valentine’s Day and gave us all something to love, it’s fascinating to compare its narrative arc with that of 2015’s Currents — which marked a clear turning point in Tame Impala’s career as well as his personal life. Though there are notable moments between the two albums that mirror each other, the former fearfully wrestled with heartbreak and grappled with what the future might hold (e.g., “Let It Happen”), while the latter displays an empowering embrace of the past with all its good and bad.
Themes of time and notes of nostalgia are more prominent than ever: The album is bookended with tracks titled “One More Year” and “One More Hour,” respectively. “Posthumous Forgiveness” is a tearjerking dedication to Parker’s late father, who passed in 2009. “Lost in Yesterday” discusses how fondness of the past can so easily warp our perception of it, fabricating fond memories where perhaps unpleasant ones should be. The opening lines seem to poke fun of how foolish nostalgia can be: “When we were living in squalor, wasn’t it heaven?” (And speaking of time warps, the band even released a The Slow Rush Time Warp playlist on Spotify featuring exclusive tracks.)
“Is It True” is like a less tortured “The Less I Know the Better,” as both share a theme of shutting something out. With the former song, that “something” was rejection — but with the latter, it’s love. Parker also apparently gave himself a strict time restraint to write “Is It True,” revealing how he experiments with time in his creative process. Ironically, it’s arguably the catchiest track of the record, therefore proving that it doesn’t much matter how long he spends refining the final product for it to be good. According to the song’s artist commentary on Genius lyrics, “Young love is uncertain. Let’s not talk about the future. We don’t know what it holds. I hope it’s forever but how do I know? When all is said and done, all you can say is ‘we’ll see.’”
The closing track of The Slow Rush sounds like time ticking. Staccato piano chords keep time, sustaining throughout as the suspense builds gradually. Tame Impala’s commentary on “One More Hour” is an ode to the artist’s peace of mind in turning a new leaf and moving forward in life:
“The time has come. Nothing left to prepare. Nothing left to worry about. Nothing left to do but sit and observe the stillness of everything as time races faster than ever. Even shadows cast by the sun appear to move. My future comes to me in flashes, but it no longer scares me. As long as I remember what I value the most.”
If Tame Impala’s discography up until this point has mourned the past, confronted the present, and feared the future, then The Slow Rush has helped reconcile all three. The stylistic variations among the band’s records confidently welcome change in spite of the anxiety it might bring. The essence of Tame Impala itself demonstrates that time is neither linear nor static, and evolution is crucial to the beauty of life and art.