Lonerism by Tame Impala (2012) – Music Review

Tame_Impala_Lonerism_CoverIf there is an It Band at the moment, that band is Tame Impala and the album that has everyone’s attention is Lonerism (2012). Tame Impala, a three piece (sometimes five piece) psychedelic alt rock outfit out of Perth, Australia have not only picked up Australia’s J Award for Album of the Year, Lonerism has also just been named #1 Album of the Year from NME. And as any music fan will tell you, such an accolade from taste makers, NME is definitely nothing to sneeze at. But this is no ordinary bit of hype in a current music climate where there aren’t a lot of interesting things happening. Lonerism is an honest, unique and altogether fine album and I hate to repeat what everyone else has already caught on with, but it is indeed worthy of Album of the Year.

If you try to imagine what Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would sound like if it were combined with Radiohead in some kind of tripped out dream sequence, you’ll get somewhere in the vicinity of what to expect from Lonerism. Vocalist and guitarist Kevin Parker even sounds like John Lennon. The band’s website claims their sound is “equally informed by The Beatles as it is beat poetry, by Turkish prog as it is by Turkish delight, and by English folk as much as homeless folk…” I’m not sure about Turkish delight, but there is certainly something delightful in the works here.

Lonerism is a multi-layered kaleidoscope of texture infused with 1960s and 1970s psychedelic rock and something completely innovative and modern. Listeners may be reminded of something like Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest (2009), but Lonerism is far more accessible to the popular ear and not quite so harmonically schizophrenic as Grizzly Bear’s offering.  As a whole, it’s  ambient and friendly enough to be background music but still accomplished and interesting enough to deserve careful and repeated listening.

All of the tracks are on the long side, most coming in around five minutes, save the three minute ‘She Just Won’t Believe Me’ – an airy spaced out bit of atmospheric sound that’s getting heavily into late Beatles influences with Parker’s Lennonesque refrain and a fine lick of raw guitar. The rest of the album varies from sweeping ambient electronics undercut with driving rock rhythms, like ‘Endors Toi’ and ‘Mind Mischief’, to more trippy and avante garde elements of opening track ‘Be Above It’ and even getting into the alt pop side of things on ‘Music to Walk Home By.’ Start to end, Lonerism is a complete and crafted album in the truest sense, not a mere collection of singles thrashed out to the iTunes generation.

The international attention Tame Impala is attracting these days has been credited as one of the major forces behind the current upward trajectory of the Australian music scene – see this article by Robbie Buck for more detail on that – though this is not the first time Tame Impala has made a splash in international waters. Their first feature length album, Innerspeaker (2010) attracted a similar amount of attention. It was named Rolling Stone‘s 2010 Album of the Year and received impressive critical attention all round. Lonerism is the kind of sophomore album most bands can only dream about, taking everything the group has already developed to new and fascinating places. It’s refreshing to hear an alternative rock band doing something innovative in a market saturated by dozens of verse-chorus-verse three chord standards. Get this album. Listen to it carefully, over and over again. You’ll be all the better for it.


Kate Krake

Kate Krake (aka Kate Murphy) is a writer with a long established passion for all realms of popular culture. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. Find out more on Kate's Blog.