Tame Impala: The Slow Rush review – a stunning explosion of heartfelt pop

Dave Simpson

Tame Impala, AKA 34-year-old Australian Kevin Parker, started out in 2010 as a home-recording, guitar-wielding psychedelic rocker, but 2015’s Currents cemented his metamorphosis into an arena-filling synth-psych act whose tunes are covered by Rihanna and Arctic Monkeys. Along the way, he has collaborated with Mark Ronson, Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Travis Scott and now professes to be influenced more by pop songwriter ubermensch Max Martin than 60s wigouts.

As ever, his fourth album – the first in five years – has been crafted, considered, then crafted some more. Trademark layers of instrumentation abound; Auto-Tune is used but more as a sonic effect than vocal wart concealer. What Parker calls his “dorky white disco-funk” dips into prog/fusion and utilises dance music’s vast historical palette: there’s everything from an Italian house piano to acid house 808s. But fundamentally, for all its genre-blending, The Slow Rush is stunningly pure and heartfelt pop. Borderline shares a title with a Madonna hit but sounds like it has sipped cocktails with Wham!’s Club Tropicana. Lost in Yesterday has the vaguest hints of Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Something as Parker somehow makes airy, almost weightless songs hit home with the melodic ruthlessness of a pop factory.

Parker is a similarly understated but powerfully forensic, introspective lyricist. If Currents was his breakup album, The Slow Rush follows his marriage (he and his girlfriend tied the knot last year) but there are scant anthems to domestic bliss. Instead, the artist who explains he needs to feel “worthless” to make music continues his quest for meaning in a troubled world. Recurring themes are the passage of time and the death of his father. Posthumous Forgiveness dissects their troubled relationship with unflinching candour and small child’s excitement (“I wish I could tell you about the time I had Mick Jagger on the phone”). The Perth pop adventurer may be, as Ultravox once put it, dancing with tears in his eyes, but the hymnal On Track suggests that The Slow Rush puts him exactly where he wants to be: “Strictly speaking I’m still on track, and all my dreams are still intact.”