B-Sides & Remixes
Currents B-Sides and Remixes
It’s been two years since Tame Impala has released new music. Kevin Parker, a legendary musician and reclusive individual records the entirety of Tame Impala records by himself in his home studios near the city of Perth, Australia. Kevin plays off himself, moving instrument to instrument crafting compelling soundscapes that are so uniquely his. He explains that when one works with a band the vision is inherently diluted, losing elements in the compromises made between the bandmates. That unless you’re Paul McCartney rerecording Ringo’s drum part on “Back in the USS” and various Harrison guitar parts you are going to have to be ok with the other bandmates visions for the song. He says, “if you mix too many colors (visions) you’re just going to end up with some form of brown- paraphrased” The Beatles reference is often made with Tame Impala largely because parker sounds eerily close to John Lennon- see “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards Now” for a good example. But I think it is more than this, I think Kevin Parker has the vocal and lyrical abilities of John but he also has the musicality and innovation of Paul. Using the same example as above “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards Now” a distinctly McCartney bassline shines through guiding the song forward. Kevin can do it all. But right now, it appears that Parker wants to put his magic elsewhere. He has shown a strong desire to be the man behind the dials, alleviating the pressure of creating under his own name by crafting in a different manor- by producing albums for his friends. Kevin is credited as producing for Pond, Koi Child, Melody’s Echo Chamber, even producing a single for Lady Gaga, he was also credited on Rihanna’s newest album for her cover of “Same Person, New mistakes”. Parker has also been preforming random pop up DJ gigs around Perth. He’s making music, it’s just not under the guise of Tame Impala. So, I was beyond stoked when Parker released a YouTube video at the end of October setting a date for the release of Currents Collector’s Edition. This 5 song EP is composed of three Parker originals and two remixes, one by Gum (Jay Watson) who plays keys for Tame Impala’s live shows. In an Instagram post following the release of the EP Kevin explains “think of these as the runts of the litter. Still my babies, still important, still beautiful in their own weird way. Got off to a slow start, didn’t quite fit in, didn’t grow up in time. Got there in the end, got their own vinyl release. All is well in the jungle.” This is a great context for these songs, they really wouldn’t have fit in the tightly curated “Currents” album but you can definitely tell they were made around the same time. With Kevin’s sound ever evolving this is pretty distinctly Currents Era Tame with a heavy emphasis on synths and lacking the strong guitar presence shown in his first two albums. I’ll be breaking the songs down and getting super nerdy about the sounds Kevin created one by one in the passages to follow. So, prepare yourself in your preferred fashion, hit the play button and enjoy!
List of People (to try and forget about)
This song is captivating from the start, a grand scale opener with the didgeridoo pulling you into Kevin’s catchy hook “now I’ve gotta add you to the list of people to try and forget about” the different renditions of this hook really push the song forward while maintaining continuity and catchiness. The song really opens up with the addition of a chorus of ahhs, creating a very compelling moment, as the sounds are set swirling about in your cranium. The drumming in this song is so refreshing and snappy, a characteristic trait of Tame Impala records. Kevin has said that he spends more time on the drums than anything else including the vocals. This really shines through in this song. The synth lines are also incredible, per usual with Kevin’s recent works shifting more and more into the world of electronic synths. I absolutely love how Kevin records his vocals, they are spacey but prominent in all three of the songs but especially in the opener. His vocal mix favors the currents style over lonerism or innerspeaker where the vocals were hidden deeper in the mix. The addition of those sweeping harmonic ahhs really jive well with the main vocals to add a solid textural stimulation to the song. His voice floats dreamily over the ever-climbing synths. Overall a phenomenal opening track.
Powerlines, the second track of the B-Sides tape, is a wonderfully driven instrumental. The title does a nice job of sniffing out the aroma of the song. It’s as if diverted powerlines ran directly into your headphones in glamourous technicolor. This is the song that Kevin rough cut demoed on the collector’s edition YouTube video (linked on the left). The bass drives this song with a beautifully crafted crunchy tone that has just enough bite. The repetitive panning synth layering is a nice addition, giving the listener a little retrieve from the deep tones driving the song. I also am a huge fan of the rotary synth sound he adds later in the track that spins its way around your mind. Overall a great instrumental that keeps your attention for its entirety without being too demanding or in your face.
Taxi’s Here was initially my least favorite of the originals on this EP due to its slow start, but it has since peaked my interest. This is mostly due to the lyrical concepts of the song and the phenomenal ending. In this track Kevin wrestles with mortality, a subject we have seen him take on in other works notably “Sun’s Coming Up” with the death of his father. Kevin ponders the topic with insightful wit with lines like “push the button and start counting down”. He uses the analogy of waiting for a taxi to arrive as the passage of time until death. that one’s time is a finite amount and at a future moment in time death will be upon us. He talks about overcoming his fear of failure in order to accomplish all his desires and fully embrace life. He comes back to the line “I can lose control” throughout the song and in the last verse he repeats the phrase back to back giving a sense that this realization sets him free. That he doesn’t have to be in total control of what happens in life, that in order to fully experience you must let go and to quote another parker song “let it happen”. This sentiment is really reinforced with the line “oh, time is crawling to the moment beyond which I can choose” which I interpreted to mean that he can only make so many decisions before the decisions are out of his hands, that he shouldn’t get caught up in any one particular decision because in the end a decision will be made for him. This analogy really comes to fruition at the end of the song when Parker adds the sounds of a car pulling up, a passenger getting in and the taxi departing for its destination. I think the most important part about this whole sequence is the sounds that occur after the taxi has taken off; you hear ambient nature sounds and some rustling, as to say you have left but the world continues to live on. A very powerful message so subtly hidden in Kevin’s work. More than anything else this is why I am driven to Tame Impala Albums, it’s the depths to which Kevin is willing to dive while still maintaining beautiful melodies that supplement the insightful lyrical content. Kevin explores the battles that occur within the few cubic inches of one’s brain: the hesitance to commit to a decision, the self-doubt, the paranoia and misunderstandings in relationships. Kevin gracefully tackles all of these powerful concepts throughout each album. Kevin has a phenomenal ability to translate his dwellings into a song that evokes a mood and is relatable with others. I believe after a diligent listening, paying keen attention to the lyrics, this song succeeds in crafting this relatable sentiment.
The remixes on this EP are a wash for me, this isn’t especially surprising as I really disliked the remixes on the Innerspeaker collector’s edition release. In fact, I have only heard one Tame remix that I have enjoyed that being HIAM remix of ‘cause I’m a man. I absolutely dig the juxtaposition of a female vocals singing the pitfalls of man, plus those stuttered sweeps are really something special. (I’ll add a Spotify link below) Special isn’t an adjective that comes to mind with the two remixes on the B-sides. I had high hopes for the Gum remix of “Reality in Motion” after seeing the track list as I really dig Jay Watson as a solo artist but to my disappointment what he delivered was a bland rendition that cut out my favorite parts of the original. The coolest part of the song comes at the 2:45 mark with the synth breakdown which perks my attention on the rare times I play this song through. But even this section is short lived as he starts to chop the vocals in a rather obtrusive way that is a rather off putting to me. But seriously check out Jay’s solo work under the moniker Gum. His album Glamorous Damage is a phenomenal compilation of songs heavily influenced by 80’s musical elements. look for a full review of this album in the future. Jay is also a pivotal member of Pond- check out the song “sitting on a crane” off of the man it feels like space again album. Though this remix turned out to be a flop in my opinion I really appreciate that Kevin put Jay on the EP. Jay has played in the live portion of Tame Impala since its early inception (there was one drummer prior to jay but he replaced him early on) and is a dear friend of Kevin.
I’m not even going to take the time to elaborate on the “Let it Happen” Remix other than to say it had a promising start. The percolating synth sounds were pretty captivating and was well and dandy up until the 1:45 mark where the weird bass grove completely ruined the vibe of the song. Such a stimulating synth build up for a terrible release that left me more than underwhelmed.
Songs Mentioned in the Review