Modern Classics: Tame Impala – Currents

Exploring Tame Impala’s album ‘Currents,’ Ciarán Busby explains why this album deserves the title of ‘Modern Classic.’

Tame Impala produced an astonishing record in the form of Currents in 2015. The third studio album from the Australian psychedelic group is a hypnotic and trance-inducing trip, featuring a moving narrative that may not be apparent at first listen. For these reasons alone, Currents should be deemed a modern classic.

The thirteen-track LP provides a stage to showcase frontman Kevin Parker’s extensive range, not only vocally, but in his writing, producing, and recording capabilities. Atmospheric synths and wide-ranging, breathy, falsetto vocals smoothly carry the listener into a sense of euphoria. The album is replete with audio oddities that appear questionable, but which are somehow essential. Chief among these is the unusual use of broad phasing alongside stereo panning, which gives Currents its distinctive psychedelic vibe.

Atmospheric synths and wide-ranging, breathy, falsetto vocals smoothly carry the listener into a sense of euphoria.

‘Let It Happen,’ the opening track on the album, pushes forward a melodic synth hook which is addictive. The track features an arresting use of audio looping, recalling a skipping record; combined with stereo panning, this vividly creates for the listener the effect of having been drugged. Fuzzy looped basslines packed with rhythmic funk juices are introduced, to be exploited to full effect in the hip-swinging and backbeat-heavy ‘The Less I Know the Better.’

Hip-hop inspired percussion and strolling basslines provide the backbone for ‘The Moment.’ Together with the synths that are now synonymous with Tame Impala, this drives what is the most conceptually impressive song on the album. It insightfully insists on going with the flow, just as in the opening track, but to nevertheless be open to spontaneity. Musically the song reflects the lyrics by featuring an interlude disjointed from the rest of the piece.

‘Past Life’ serves as the realisation of the deeper theme of this album. For the first half of Currents, we find ourselves learning to grow and move on, until the narrator in “Past Life” spots an old flame. From there, we find a regression in the album to an old self, which ultimately is not positive. This is explicitly revealed in the final two song titles, ‘Love/Paranoia,’ and ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes.’

Oft likened to the replication of a drug trip, the essence of 60s and 70s psychedelia is encapsulated in this record. Much like the metamorphosis undertaken in the album, Parker has reinvented psychedelic rock for years to come, though it remains deeply seeded in influence. Currents sits in pole position as Tame Impala’s best work and is a staple of the modern psychedelic rock genre – an easy classic.