Review #382: Currents, Tame Impala

Karla Clifton
3 min readMay 2, 2023

#382: Currents, Tame Impala

I’ve seen this album cover on a t-shirt about seven thousand times — that’s how I knew it was big. That and my brother loves it. I also feel the need to shame myself and mention that I pronounce the band name wrong every time. Tah-may Im-pale-ah? No, it sounds like it’s spelled.

Also it’s not a band at all, it’s just one guy and a number of touring musicians that orbit around him. His name is Kevin Parker, and he is my new nemesis. I’ll explain later.

This is Parker’s third album and the first one that he made without any collaborations to speak of — he hid out in his house and auteur’d it himself. And it made him massive. After this, he collaborated with Lady Gaga (on “Perfect Illusion”) and Kanye West (on “Violent Crimes,” an experience that he called “an absolute saga.”)

And just having been exposed to pop music in the past eight years, I can tell that he had a huge impact on it. Every single song on this album is bouncy, woozy, trippy, downright mesmerizing and criminally danceable. If you know one song on this album, it’s “The Less I Know The Better,” where Parker uses his turned-down guitar as a buoyant razor blade. But even Parker admits that his hit single barely fits the mood of the rest of his album, unlike “Let It Happen,” which runs the whole electro-dance gamut, from high-pitched synths to rumbling bass. He knows how to work a cryptic interlude, too. (See: “Nangs,” “Gossip,” and “Disciples.”)

Sonically, it’s a dance album; lyrically, it’s a hippie-dippie album about personal transformation and becoming comfortable with the passage of time. When you can parse his falsetto, you can hear Parker admonishing himself to stay in the moment (“The Moment”) and admit that he’s changing (“Yes I’m Changing”). And closing track “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” closes the thematic circle, admitting that even though he feels he’s changed, he’s fundamentally the same. (By the way, Rihanna covered this one on ANTI, and somehow I freaking missed it. My research skills have really improved.)

Another theme tackled by Currents: relationships. Parker broke up with a girlfriend shortly before he began working on this record, and it shows. He sings about their uncomfortable ends and awkward beginnings. “Eventually” has him reassuring his ex and himself that things will all work out for the best — just not right now. “Love/Paranoia” has him accusing a girlfriend of infidelity, maybe rightly, maybe wrongly. But “Reality In Motion” and “Past Life” both deal with the anxiety and hopefulness that occur when you see someone you might want to fall in love with. Fun fact, the high-pitched Aussie Hello? at the end of the latter is his then-girlfriend, now-wife.

So why is Kevin Parker my nemesis? Every single quote from him is the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard. Example: Two years before releasing this album, Parker said, “Right now, doing another album doesn’t excite me. There’s something narrow-minded about thinking an album is the only way you can put out music.” Big eye-roll. Tell me more about how wide-open your mind is compared to the rest of us, then release an album anyway.

I really do love this record — in fact, I can’t turn it off. I’ve played it like ten times since yesterday. But listening to him talk about it actually makes me like it less! The one that got to me the most was the way he talked about “’Cause I’m A Man.” Quote: “The song is about how weak men are, … We don’t have any self-control and are pathetic, basically.” I hate the implication that men have absolutely no control over their own actions and therefore can’t be held accountable for anything.

Maybe I’m not being very generous — I have a plantar’s wart that won’t go away, and it’s making me a little bit bitchy. In any case, I will be purchasing this on vinyl. Curse you, Parker!!!

Final Note: I have a bone to pick with RS: MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular walked so that Tame Impala’s Currents could run. Why isn’t that on the RS 500 list?

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