On his fourth studio album The Slow Rush, Kevin Parker, the mastermind behind Tame Impala, focuses on sonically lush and intricate production paired with simplistic and relatable lyrics. The meaning behind these lyrics, while somewhat obvious, would not carry the same leverage on top of any other instrumentation. The chaotic and dizzying instrumentals give the words more depth. The music of The Slow Rush will have you singing the instrumental swirls and intergalactic warps just as much as it will the lyrics.
The Slow Rush is a product of mastery genre mixing and melting. Influences of psychedelic-rock existed at the core of Tame Impala’s previous albums. Yet, hip-hop, synth-pop, electro-funk, house, and R&B all play essential roles in creating the bleary-eyed, synth-heavy, sonic euphoria that is The Slow Rush. During each song of the album, there are least two to three different layers of sound happening simultaneously—psychedelic warbles and womps paired with percussive loops and thick bass lines. These multilayer sounds create a lattice of melodic earworms that navigate through the mazes of the mind. This mental maze is a place in which memories of the past and uncertainties about the future exist in present moments. The theme of time oozes through every track.
The Slow Rush is a fifty-seven-minute long time warp. Tame Impala invites us to think about the power of time as an inescapable phenomenon that happens to us as human beings. Kevin Parker is reaching out his hand asking you to explore the memories of his mind, while also challenging you to look at your own. The track “Lost in Yesterday” touches on this concept. In an interview with Triple J, Parker explains how this song talks about “nostalgia as a drug to which we are all addicted. It’s about over-romanticizing the past and also the opposite—being consumed with regret (Kevin Parker breaks down Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ album, 4:31-4:51). He also notes how “memories always seem to become richer and stronger” as more time passes (Kevin Parker breaks down Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ album 4:31-4:51).
The “Lost in Yesterday” music video captures this sentiment. The video is a repeating shot of a wedding reception. Every time the shot repeats, the wedding seems to get better and better, as Parker sings “eventually terrible memories turn into great ones.” The last shot of the video returns to the memory of the actual not-so-great reception. Parker truly forces you to ask “does it help to get lost in yesterday?”(Tame Impala – Lost in Yesterday).
We create a lot of negativity for ourselves and get stuck in past regrets and anxieties about the future. Our capacity to find clarity and calm in the present moment becomes hindered. Each song is a journey through a web of sounds, conceptually complex and cluttered, yet dynamic and peaceful. Heightened moments clash and clammer, but then dissipate. In “Borderline,” Parker locates this internal battle where we are often “caught between the tides of pain and rapture” (Tame Impala – Borderline (Album Version)). The Slow Rush emulates a more upbeat Tame Impala, however. “On Track” is the optimistic power ballad that past Tame Impala albums like Lonerism and Currents were void of. Dizzying phasers, cascading piano composition, and introspective twinkling sounds dance through the space where peace and overwhelm co-exist. “Troubles keep falling in my lap/Yeah, yeah, but strictly speaking, I’m still on track/So tell everyone I’ll be alright/’Cause, strictly speaking, I’ve got my whole life/ More than one major setback/But strictly speaking, I’m still on track” (Tame Impala – On Track).
Parker touches on the heavyweight of life’s challenges but frames this weight similarly to the way that Ann Cvetkovich theorizes the notion of depression. “On Track” “rethinks distinctions between positive and negative feelings so as not to presume that they are separate from one another or that happiness or pleasure constitutes the absence or elimination of negative feeling” (Cvetkovich, 6).“Tomorrow’s Dust” is another song that focuses on the fleeting nature of time. The song opens “There’s no use trying to relate to that older soul/And no use trying to debate that they’ve got it wrong.” The song continues, “I was blinded by a memory…./And there’s every chance I’ll be learning fast/And the day will come and then it will pass…in the air of today, is tomorrow’s dust” (Tame Impala – Tomorrow’s Dust). The soft acoustic guitar riffs paired with whistling woodwind sounds echo throughout the song, just as your actions of today will echo into tomorrow. Parker told Apple Music “future memories are present-day current events. Tomorrow’s dust is in today’s air, floating around us as we speak” (The Slow Rush By Tame Impala). This song makes me think about how we are currently living through history.
The present-day current events of the coronavirus pandemic will always be a part of ‘tomorrow’s dust.’ My generation’s future will forever be defined by the events of 2020. Right now we are grappled by grief over time lost and experiences robbed. We are burdened by the uncertainty of the future. “Will I ever be able to find a job? Will I ever get to see live music again? What if I was supposed to meet my soulmate this summer?”—the unknown has become a throbbing migraine of questions. Unlike other thoughts concerning the unknown, the answers about what will happen next cannot even be conceptualized. Thirty years from now, my kids will need help on a school project about the year 2020. Tame Imapala’s, The Slow Rush arrives at a pivotal moment in which the passage of time seems more profound than ever. Our lives have essentially become “The Slow Rush.” The passage of time has become monotonous and slow, yet still rushes just the same. It’s crazy to think we’ve been in quarantine for more days than are left until the official start of fall.
Despite our current reality, The Slow Rush offers us an important reminder that time is always moving, and it moves fast. The album opens with “One More Year” and before you know it, you’ve reached the last track called “One More Hour.” Parker has spent five years expanding and tediously perfecting a yacht/rock psychedelic floating daydream of sound. The Slow Rush is a pause in your day that whizzes right past you. Before you know it, it’s over. This album will become a staple addition to your music library. This will be the album you turn to when you’re feeling nostalgic. It will become the album you turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed. And most of all, it will become the album that you turn to when you simply want to groove and get lost in a sonic canvas of sound.
Cvetkovich, Ann. Depression: A Public Feeling. Duke University Press, 2012. Web. Jun 25, 2020.
Kevin Parker Breaks Down Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ Album. Anonymous 2020.
“The Slow Rush by Tame Impala.” Apple Music. Web. Jun 25, 2020 <https://music.apple.com/us/album/the-slow-rush/1497230760>.
Tame Impala – Borderline (Album Version).Web. Jun 25, 2020.
Tame Impala – Lost in Yesterday.Web. Jun 25, 2020.
Tame Impala – Lost in Yesterday (Official Video). Anonymous 2020.
Tame Impala – Tomorrow’s Dust. Web. Jun 25, 2020.
This piece is part of the on-going series “The Social and Political Commentary of Music Reviews,” which is part of an Alternative Journalism course at Tulane University taught by Dr. Christine Capetola.