When Kasabian released West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum three years ago they claimed it was influenced by Sixties psychedelic legends The Pretty Things and Thirteenth Floor Elevators, described it as a hallucinogenic soundtrack to an imaginary movie and boasted about how the record would be heralded as a game-changing masterpiece in years to come. They were wrong. Very wrong in fact. Because if they had just the tiniest modicum of talent or any imagination whatsoever that record may - and I emphasize the word 'MAY' - just have ended up something like Lonerism. Effervescently sprawling, somewhat dark in places, multi-dimensional, and increasingly fascinating with every subsequent listen.
But then Tame Impala have never been about conforming to expectations. Their debut, 2010's Innerspeaker, may have trodden a fine line between innovation and self-indulgence, but anyone fortunate enough to have witnessed their live show will have seen a band constantly striving to push themselves beyond any boundaries that may exist. Even as far back as 2009 when DiS first spoke to the band, multi-faceted frontman Kevin Parker made his intentions clear. 'We are big music nerds. We collect music. We love a lot of stuff from the Sixties and Seventies but it's not all we’re into. We like different eras of music,' he claimed back then. He also stated his band make music for themselves, and not for journalists to pick at. If anything that last comment perhaps rings true the most when listening to both Lonerism and its predecessor, because Tame Impala clearly don't believe in playing by the rules.
Despite taking over a year to make - Parker lost the original demos at one point - Lonerism isn't so much a departure from Tame Impala's previous records, but more of a natural progression. As well as writing and playing on the album, Parker is also responsible for the record's production and at times, its the minor flaws such as the tinny drums that introduce opener 'Be Above It', or hazy dropouts where the guitars sound as if they're being erased before your very ears - intended or otherwise - that add to the record's charm. Call it modest authenticity, or maybe even an exercise in trial and error, but for a record as ambitious as Lonerism obviously sets out to be, it fits impeccably.
Having already touched on the influence of records like SF Sorrow or Easter Everywhere earlier; and Parker has made no secret in various interviews of Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star also playing a part in Lonerism's creation; there are moments here where The Monkees' Head soundtrack springs to mind ('Endors Toi'), Hawkwind rise from the ashes ('Music To Walk Home By') and even the ghost of Ziggy Stardust makes his presence known ('Sun's Coming Up'). Of course it would be easy to just write a list of the many influences that make up the ingredients of Lonerism's concept but then that would be doing Parker and co. a complete disservice. Sure, Tame Impala borrow from the past - who doesn't? But it's the way they manage to transform those ideas into something voyeuristic that makes Lonerism such compelling listening.
Lyrically ambiguous, if at times inaudible, one cannot imagine Parker spending months writing and rewriting his words into some kind of poetic monologue. Instead he's too busy conjuring up a neo-psychedelic concoction of pieces that work as a whole in a similar way to the aforementioned Head, or The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour even. Sure, lead single 'Elephant' does sound like a glam rock stomp straight of the How To Be Marc Bolan handbook, while the heavy vocal effects on 'Apocalypse Dreams' act as a link between its four-songs-in-one concept like an updated version of the Fab Four's 'Day In The Life'. But then we've come to expect nothing less. What is certain though is that Lonerism marks Tame Impala's arrival as a genuine force to be reckoned with, and even if at times there's a feeling Parker's trying to cram too many ideas into one piece, it's a record that will undoubtedly be used as a benchmark for guitar music of the near future.
8Dom Gourlay's Score