Australian Psych-rock band Tame Impala comes to SLC promoting their first album

Photos courtesy of MODULARPEOPLE.COM

Space. Both the kind that is in between things and the kind that Buzz Aldrin made his bread and butter with. Space in every sense permeates Innerspeaker, the freshman album from the band Tame Impala.

Kevin Parker, singer, guitarist, and core writer and performer of the material on Innerspeaker, calls the melodies “dream-like” in an interview with the music blog Luno, but perhaps this is just the effect of the incredible openness of the album.

Even on furiously forward-moving tracks like “Alter Ego,” there is a sense each time one hears it that there is enough space for anything to happen – the song could go in any direction every time, but only barely fails to do so. Like a dream, the possibilities seem, if actually aren’t, endless.

Background is in order: Tame Impala hails from Perth, Australia, and has been playing under the name since 2007. It is the brainchild of Kevin Parker, who recorded almost everything on the album, following in the footsteps of the likes of Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, who played everything but the drums on Siamese Dream. Except Parker even played the drums on Innerspeaker – as well as for a previous project called the Dee Dee Dums. In this sense, the album is essentially a solo project.

To tour, however, Jay Watson takes the drums, Dominic Simpler the guitar, and Nick Allbrook the bass, along with Parker’s vocals and guitar.

Back to the music. One must admit that the first thing you think of when you hear Tame Impala is The Beatles. Granted, Parker sings like the most legitimate successor of John Lennon to yet be recorded. But take all that and put it in a box for a minute. Listen to everything else carefully. What you have is the most sickeningly great innovation of blues-influenced psych-rock in decades. The Beatles could never have played this. Clapton could never have played this.

Yes, Tame Impala’s history, their influences are evident on the album in spades. But one should not for a minute mistake Tame Impala for a “throwback” band, like a musical version of the new Dr Pepper, whose only purpose is to sound like bands used to “back then.”

This is a thoroughly contemporary project that happens to pick up where the seventies left off. But they are not stuck there.

One might call what they are doing minimalist – but this is only to say that they don’t rely on excessive instrumentation to accomplish good listening. Harmonically – in terms of cords melodies – there is anything but minimalism going on.

Take the most innovative track on the album, “Expectations.” The core of the song is a familiar two-chord structure, the simplest base you could really have and still call what you are playing a song.

Drop an unexpected three-beat rhythm on top of that and you suddenly have a real groove going.

Weave a melody that is somber, sad and excessively active over the top of all that and you have a song that is above reproach.

In addition, never let the melody resolve. Let the end of every line hang on the note just before the one you think you should end on. Then you have, well, some of the best music it is possible to make. Brilliance.

Let’s be clear though.  Not every track is of this caliber. “Bold Arrow of Time” is a psych blues track in the clear tradition of Cream. It is fantastic. But it is also over before it is finished. One may never be bored, but neither challenged nor dazzled with this tune. The same goes for “Runaway Houses City Clouds.” One is involved without really caring too much.

This should not in any way distract from the shining exceptionality of, really, every other track. No one is perfect. Some bands point in the direction of perfection, though, and Tame Impala is one of them.

When: Dec. 6, 2010. 8:30 p.m.
Where: Urban Lounge
241 S 500 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
What to expect: Greatness