Celebrating the psychedelic fuzz of Tame Impala, the ongoing musical project of Sydney born multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, who turns 35 today.
The sound of spacy, guitar-heavy psychedelic pop has never really gone out of fashion since The Beatles brought it to the mainstream in the 1960s, with proponents like Pink Floyd and the Flaming Lips managing to make long careers out of mining its every seam. In the 2010s, there is no more popular psych-pop group than Oceania’s very own Tame Impala.
Kevin Parker and Dominic Simper formed Tame Impala as 13-year-olds in Perth, Western Australia in 1999, sticking to scratchy bedroom recordings until 2007, when Jay Watson joined them on drums and backing vocals. Their sound was pure late ’60s, but wasn’t the sound of any specific band from the era.
In typically Ziggy fashion, they were as likely to channel the Nazz as the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Cocooned away inside walls of psychedelic fuzz in WA, they re-created their preferred period one song at a time with the aid of gear and production techniques that sounded like they hadn’t been dusted off since 1968.
In 2010, Tame Impala made their full-length debut with Innerspeaker. Recorded mainly in a remote beach house four hours outside Perth, the album was a critical and popular success, gaining the band fans all over the globe, being nominated for many awards in Australia including ARIA Album of the Year and winning the J Album of the Year nod.
Released in 2012, Lonerism was a less guitar-heavy, far weirder album than Innerspeaker, yet it made an even bigger splash, topping many year-end polls (including NME), and the record was nominated for Best Alternative Album at the Grammys.
All this success made Parker, now based in France, an in-demand collaborator, working on a handful of tracks on Ronson’s Uptown Special album as well as team ups with Mick Jagger and Lady Gaga. 2015’s Currents, which included the cosmic dance-rock suite Let It Happen (very probably my favourite single of the year) saw TP’s sound expanded to include more up-tempo club-informed tracks and some smooth R&B stylings, was once again nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 2016 Grammys.
In 2019, the band switched back into gear, landing a handful of high-profile summer festival headline slots, with their fourth LP, The Slow Rush, hitting on Valentine’s Day 2020. “This is a 57-minute flex of every musical muscle in Parker’s body,” opined the NME. “Crunchy guitars are largely absent, but we’re left with something far more intriguing – a pop record bearing masterful electronic strokes. If Currents soundtracked the glorious come-up, The Slow Rush is the wobbly morning after, with everything and everyone under question.”
In a perfect summation, Josh Terry of Vice named Tame Impala his Artist of the Decade for the 2010s, writing, “No artist captured how genres cross-pollinated throughout the 2010s better than Tame Impala”. He added: “In the age of streaming and the big-box festival bubble, Parker’s discography seems factory-made for both a crowd of thousands and a chill night alone with a vibe-heavy playlist” and that “his music embodies the technology-driven sense of loneliness of this decade better than any of his peers”.