On first inspection, Perth based trio Tame Impala look like any other stereotypical Australian rock and roll outfit; ballsy, fresh and with bags full of attitude no doubt gleaned from studying the more traditional musical exports from across the seas. In part, that theory would be correct. However, Tame Impala aren't your stereotypical 21st Century band by any stretch of the imagination. While they've obviously taken several steps back in time through the annals of rock and its forebearers, their lineage owes more to a time when psychedelia ruled the airwaves and any concept of heavy, let alone noise rock, was a mere embryonic twinkle in its LSD-guzzling parents eyes.
Indeed when they first came to attention over this side of the world courtesy of 2008's excellent self-titled EP - lead track 'Desire Be Desire Go' is included here - there's been a feeling that their admittedly retrogressive rock had an instinctively current feel about it. At times sharing a common ground with fellow psyche rockers The Black Angels and Darker My Love, at others going back even further to a world where Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilations rule and anyone who says otherwise is a luddite, Tame Impala oozed a level of potential that usurped the eloquent but stuck in a rut no nonsense blues of The Black Keys or 22-20s without ever sounding worthy or forced, something made evident on their last, all to brief sojourn on the UK's live circuit.
Here then, after two years of hard work, the odd line-up change and (allegedly) a heady dose of mindbending psychedelics comes Innerspeaker, their long-awaited debut that even after a dozen listens sounds like it could have been recorded 35 years ago. Granted, pulsating instrumental 'Jeremy's Storm' could be a mute second cousin to Sonic Youth's 'The Sprawl' in a parallel universe, such are its similarities in structure, but elsewhere it's clear to see Tame Impala take their inspiration from more classic, and in many ways embryonic sources.
The 15-second white noise intro to 'It Is Not Meant To Be' is merely a teasing aside before the song slips into a laidback, opulent groove. Kevin Parker's occasionally masked and distorted vocals carry a distinctive west coast twang about them, none more evident than when he reveals "She doesn't make friends for friendship's sake" at the song's mid-point. The brassy effects on 'Alter Ego' and last-third breakdown of 'Lucidity' both pay homage in no uncertain terms to The Pretty Things, albeit via reams of effects pedals and louder speakers.
Its not all so obvious though. 'Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?' and its percussion heavy stomp proffers the soulful route perfected by the Spencer Davis Group back in the day, and Little Barrie more recently. The poppy psychedelia of closer 'I Don't Really Mind' coupled with the smouldering baggy of 'Solitude Is Bliss' suggests not all Tame Impala's record collections were pilfered from their dads, both exquisite examples of the three-and-a-half to four minute pop song radio station bosses would have given their right and left arms for once upon a time.
Nevertheless, when Tame Impala choose to follow the rock opera spiel, they do so with mixed results. The spacious loop of 'The Bold Arrow Of Time' sounds like it was constructed in workmanlike jam fashion, repetitively treading over the same ground again until someone calls a gracious halt. The penultimate 'Runway, Houses, City, Clouds' fares so much better thanks to its instinctive, spacious groove that actually sounds as if it were constructed by accident, an exceedingly happy one nonetheless.
Innerspeaker won't rewrite the history books or reinvent the wheel, but at the same time it serves its purpose as a shining example of the fact that having a nostalgic outlook needn't necessarily be deemed a negative course of action.
7Dom Gourlay's Score