For the past year or so, a surprisingly large number of indie rockers have collectively celebrated or pined for the beach, either through peppy, surf-inspired rock or the imagery associated with it. From Wavves to Best Coast, Washed Out to Neon Indian, the summer’s been endless, the fling everlasting, the weed smoke billowing as high as the bloodshot eye can see. But on the other side of the globe, a group of Australian gentlemen has skipped the beach parties and lazy afternoons of summer, instead offering up the perfect Autumn soundtrack a few months ahead of schedule.
Perth, Australia’s Tame Impala is a psychedelic rock combo in the classic sense of the word, recalling the fuzzed-out, hazy tones of ’60s bands such as Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience or, more recently, Düngen. There’s a rich, analog feel to their debut album Innerspeaker, which can at least partially be attributed to famed producer Dave Fridmann. But more than just background music for an acid trip, Innerspeaker is a dense and swirling affair that reveals far more than the group’s admiration of Blue Cheer, instead offering an experience of being wrapped in a heavy sonic fog. Beyond the fuzz and effects-laden assault, Innerspeaker is an album heavy on melodic subtlety. For such a reasonably simple guitar-bass-drums combination, the songs on the album seem deceptively layered and complex. On a fairly straightforward three-minute tune such as “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?”, the interplay of distortion, vocal reverb and echoing harmonies creates a stunning effect that seems both space-age and pastoral at once. Heavy.
Certainly, Innerspeaker is an album big on ear candy, but that’s merely the dazzling surface for the kind of beauty and majesty the band can conjure. “Solitude Is Bliss” is a rock anthem in the making, driven by massive riffs and Kevin Parker’s infectious refrain, “You will never come close to how I feel,” sounding simultaneously commanding and distant. There’s a Byrds-like jangle atop the driving rhythms of “Island Walking,” which makes perfect sense when you consider their bass player’s name is Paisley Adams (no, really). Leadoff track “It Is Not Meant to Be” is one of the strongest tracks, an autumnal blend of psych-rock chug and jazz-influenced interludes, as thick and wondrous as a verdant forest, but kaledioscopically brilliant. And the juxtaposition of clean tones and burly fuzz on “Desire Be Desire Go” creates a cool and often underused yin and yang effect.
As colossal an album Innerspeaker seems at times, Tame Impala are less about making a big rock ‘n’ roll record than they are about making a truly rich and fully enveloping one. By trading in a summer of love style of psychedelia for one more stoic and autumnal, they’ve built up a sound with endless depth and mesmerizing layers that only overlap and engross further as the album progresses. It’s rare that an album can both kick ass and feel as warm as a big fuzzy blanket, but Tame Impala have seemingly accomplished the impossible by doing both. Heavy.
Video: “Solitude Is Bliss”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.