The most enjoyable isolation is getting lost in a majestic studio album that hits the target right between your ears. Certain music just sounds so much more powerful while sporting your Skull Candy, and Lonerism does just that. Tame Impala are seriously committed to making the isolation of your mind, mind-blowingly spectacular.
The quintet from Perth, Australia specializes in heavily grooved, psychedelic rock music. The mood and melody float in and out of songs in a dreamy sort of way, but it is not self-indulgent chill wave you’re hearing. This is ROCK with spacey, classic sounding psychedelia; weaving guitars, synthesizers, and striking, bad ass drum fills awash in modern effects.
Their first album, Innerspeaker, garnered strong critical praise and featured one of the best songs of 2010, “Solitude Is Bliss.” That song, instantly recognizable and undeniably infectious, could be found on many Best Of lists for the year. It also hits on the recurring theme of isolation that is more clearly evident on this second album. The theme is supported right down to the album cover, which views a crowd through fence bars.
Vocalist, Kevin Parker, channels his inner John Lennon, at times as the Beatle and others as the raving experimentalist of the Plastic Ono Band. The groove oriented psychedelic sound is re-imagined decades later in a way that pays homage; they look back but never sound dated. It’s a logical extension of Lennon, and maybe an imagined version of what he might sound like today if given modern technology.
Striking that on some basic level, the first two songs are heavily instrumental and seem designed as companions. Lonerism begins with “Be Above It” and “Endors Toi.” A chant of “gotta be above it; gotta be above it” repeats like a mantra riding on the back of a steady pulsating and distorted drumbeat until the brief chorus of “and I know that I can’t let them bring me down” floats in softly and layers on top of it all. It’s a beautiful refrain like Lennon’s mantra of “Jai Guru Deva Om” in the Beatles “Across the Universe.” The sentiment is similar there too: “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” Especially interesting when he flips that sentence structure to “everything is changing” on the very next song, “Apocalypse Dreams.”
Lonerism takes off at “Mind Mischief,” which is also the most radio-friendly track. It’s not nearly as accessible as “Solitude Is Bliss” with that song’s big chorus, but it’s every bit as strong. Keyboards and drums dominate with studio trickery, while Parker drops trippy, detached lyrics. It’s immediately followed by “Music To Walk Home By,” which is similar in style and equally infectious. “Elephant” is rooted in a Black Sabbath stomping groove that veers all over with stops and starts punctuated by keyboard bursts.
Lonerism is a brilliant concoction that announces “we’re here to stay,” clearly upping the ante with one of the year’s best albums. Loaded with more switchbacks than the Snake River, we recommend that you jump in your metaphorical kayak and grab it. You’ll be glad you went along for the ride.
Lyrics – 15
Composition – 19
Musicianship – 19
Production – 20
Originality – 10
Intangibles – 10
Overall: 93 (A “must buy” for 2012)
Check out: “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”