Kevin Parker had the biggest of his 33 years in 2019. Two standalone new tracks – ‘Patience’ and ‘Borderline’ – accompanied a major UK tour that culminated in a headline slot on the Other Stage down on Worthy Farm. Parker’s stock has never been higher and long-anticipated fourth album The Slow Rush doesn’t come without its expectations.
At least to most fans, I should think. Me? Not so much. I haven’t scrutinised the lead singles – 'It Might Be Time’ or ‘Lost In Yesterday’– with nearly as much rigour as I would have done in the build-up to the last album, 2015’s epic Currents, or during the Lonerism years. Kevin Parker has already proved himself super-human across three glorious albums. The man’s legacy shall not be tarnished. The Slow Rush can sink or swim – it really doesn’t matter to me. And there we have it.
But for the sake of objective critique, let’s take a look anyway.
What becomes the clearest truth as you listen to the first Tame Impala album in half a decade is that The Slow Rush is a more straightforward record than Currents. That doesn’t mean easier or less good; just that some of the intensity and difficult narrative of Currents isn’t here and that The Slow Rush is a more natural album to listen to. Your mum could listen to it (if she so wished) is what I’m saying. Where Currents felt harassed and dangerous, The Slow Rush is far less urgent. Not to take its name too literally but The Slow Rush really does move at a languid pace. Songs burn slowly and groove without breaking sweat; the record is, after all, built entirely around the idea of the passing of time. On ‘Lost In Yesterday’ Parker yearningly looks back to days when fulfilment was simpler to come by, at least in hindsight: When we were livin' in squalor / Wasn't it heaven? / Back when we used to get on it four out of seven.
This slovenly approach also produces some of Parker’s gentlest moments yet. ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’ veers a little close to electro-pop ballad but thrillingly is one of the few tracks in many years that come somewhere close to the very first album. It has the offbeat snappy drums and the swirling psychedelic flange that was synonymous with Innerspeaker all those years ago. 'On Track' continues the down-tempo theme, though for the first time does start to risk the chill-wave approach overstay its welcome.
Perhaps to be expected at this point if you’ve followed the evolution of Tame Impala, The Slow Rush is even further along the electronica scale – at times almost unrecognisable to the Tame of a decade ago; that is until Parker glides in with his swooning “who else but Kevin Parker” vocal, the one constant of every Tame record.
‘Borderline’ is an already-great single that has been wonderfully tweaked for the album. Though tweaking is anything but major, the track is punchier and more electronica than electronic-pop.
Tame Impala is a really big deal these days. A far bigger deal than I think I had acknowledged until recently. With that comes big expectations. Parker, though, isn’t doing anything by expectation. Nobody could accuse The Slow Rush of being what anybody else demanded. Parker might be hot shit but he’s still doing things his way and no mistake.
The Slow Rush is an album founded on reflection and times gone by and if you are content without Currents II then you’ll be happy. The fact that we even venture the need to find any problems is only a statement of the ludicrously high standards that Parker has set. Where The Slow Rush fits in your Tame Impala best ever album poll is up for debate, but what is for sure is that Parker has, without question, now hit four for four.