|It’s always difficult to release a successful follow-up album after a very successful debut album, and sadly most artists often fail to deliver. The pressures to make a quick follow-up, to succumb to the “let’s go mainstream” mentality, and the fatalistic writer’s block occur—an artist’s crisis if you will. However, Tame Impala’s newest album, Lonerism, is the psychedelic band’s battle to defy the odds as they breathe new life into the music that defined the 60’s and 70’s.
It would be cheap misunderstanding to coin Tame Impala with the common adage, “They’re just 60’s revivalists.” While Lonerism still retains some similarities to their debut, Innerspeaker, as they expand upon their psychedelic sonic palate, Lonerism is more confident, less tangential, more compelling, and overall just a better album. They still retain their 60’s experimental otherness with an electronic twist. Yet this album is more explosive with clarions of distorted synths and buzzing drones.
The album begins with “Above It,” as a fade in of clamoring lo-fi drums and delayed whispers of “Gotta be above it,” bursts into the calm soundscape. “Above It,” is neither grand nor declarative which leaves the album to go in a number of directions. However, the epic and explosive song that follows, “Endors Toi,” is where the album truly begins. It’s a raucous explosion of delayed chords reminiscent to U2’s Edge ethereal guitar sound, as barrages of erratic drums and arpeggios of Twilight zone synths fill the void.
While listening, I’m immediately brought back to the psychedelic haze of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Each song is a blank canvas that is an imaginative cross between of the nostalgic pop sentiments of the Beatles to the aggressive brutality of King Crimson. While none of the songs appease to the limiting chorus/ verse format, the album still reaps of some pop finesse, as each are memorable and succinct vignettes. Kevin Parker, the frontman of Tame Impala, even sounds like John Lennon with his gentle, desperate, and (one might even say) innocent cadence.
While all the songs, for the most part, express some rootedness in pop, there is an unconventional and abrasive tone to Lonerism. Each song is a condensed kaleidoscopic array of confections that could be the synesthetic equivalent to a hallucinogenic trip of dropping acid. The psychedelic rock opuses of “Keep on Lying,” and “Elephant” are a testament to that. “Keep on Lying” begins with a fade in of a riff similar to The Door’s Ray Manzarek’s circus- themed keyboard jingle. The progression of the song later leads into a chaos of earnest guitar notes and sampled voices that climax into a distorted guitar solo and maniacal, mutated laughs.
At the heart of Lonerism there is a certain loneliness that resonates throughout the lyrics. It delves into the typical life hardening situations with petty love tales in “Mind Mischief,” and of failed dreams in “Apocalypse Dreams.” However Parker expands upon the sadness and subtle complexities of solitude in Lonerism. To me, it seems that while Parker is blissfully dreaming in the chaotic trance of psychedelia that is the Lonerism, he suddenly wakes up in the song “Sun’s Coming Up.” While he sings “Sun’s comin up now, I guess it’s over,” he finds solace in the loneliness and isolation—no matter how screwed up it may be.