the slow rush album cover
image: Pitchfork

Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush: Pet Sounds for a modern world

The Slow Rush struck me with a whiff of nostalgia that I, at least initially, couldn’t quite identify. It is odd because hidden within the bass, electronic rhythm and Kevin Parker’s ever so slightly more distorted voice there was something so familiar. Then, it hit me. This is a concept album as fresh today as Pet Sounds was in the 1960s.

Each track fits together in a fabulous mêlée while still maintaining its own distinct style exactly like Pet Sounds. Obviously, this is not to say that the two are anyway comparable. Pet Sounds is an iconic album, the best album in the world. The Slow Rush most certainly is not. It’s best to however describe it as if you took a combination of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds mashed it with The Smiths (without Jonny Marr’s guitar) took psychedelics and got launched into space. Yeah, it really is as cool as that sounds. 

The music industry has genuinely, at-least in my view, struggled in the past decade or so struggled to experiment. If we chart musical history the decade started at a trough really. The skinny jeans, denim jackets and guitar riffs of indie bands like the Arctic Monkeys were beginning to sound and look ever so slightly dated. The rest of the decade was home to nauseatingly inauthentic, overproduced tat like Taylor Swift’s hilariously shit 1989. Experimentation was shunned in favour of creating ‘popular’ music purely for the sake of profiteering. 

This is a concept album as fresh today as Pet Sounds was in the 1960s

Kevin Parker knows what has worked for him in the past. Heavy guitar riffs, a heavily distorted voice, lyrics echoing the melancholic existential crisis of youth and an enchanting layering of instruments that those that Philip Spector of the Wall of Sound would be very proud of. In The Slow Rush, Parker seems to move away from these motifs and create a new even dreamier sound that takes rock towards a new direction. 

Gone are the heavy guitar riffs (they thankfully haven’t disappeared completely though!), the lyrics speak of a newfound maturity addressing complicated topics such as the death of his father in ‘Posthumous Forgiveness’ and the sound is even more distorted. This distortion, however, adds to the vibe of the album which if one sits and listens to it alone, away from distractions resembles a lucid dream of sitting on a Californian beach while seemingly real things seem to merge into one another.

It’s like a melting Picasso painting with the sky melting into the crystal blue sea and the sun-bathing people merging into the grains of soft sand. Time quite honestly does seem to slow down when you listen to the album as your attention becomes fixated on the oddities of what each instrument will do next. It simultaneously demands your attention while also asking you to a step back and analyse the entire musical set holistically. There are very few albums that can make you do that; Pet Sounds is one of them, the Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel Casino is the other that instantly comes to mind but The Slow Rush can quite rightly join them. 

 

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