Remember in 2010, when Australian neo-psychedelic band Tame Impala came out with “Solitude is Bliss,” and Kevin Parker taunted, “There’s a pah-ty in my head and no one is invited?” Yeah, we’re still not quite invited to Tame Impala’s party — the group’s latest work is actually called Lonerism. And Parker’s still making it clear that he’s quite comfortable strolling his local beach in Perth without you or anyone else. But if you’re still doubtful of the joys of isolation, just listen to the album — being a loner sounds great.
Lonerism starts off with the misleadingly simple track “Be Above It.” The song begins with sounds of a person walking and a crescendoing whisper of “gotta be above it.” A quick drumbeat is added, and the song takes off with an inspirational refrain. There’s a tide through this song, at times drawing back so you can hear the self-motivating whispers, but also intermittently met with upsurges of warm instrumentals. The footsteps in “Be Above It” are an actual recording Parker took from an unsuspecting passerby walking by his hotel. Several other songs also feature recordings of people, giving aspects of the album a peeping tom feel — rather than engaging with society, Parker is recording it.
Much of the album is more complex than “Be Above It” and as a result, more difficult to pin down as having a single sound. This isn’t to say that Lonerism doesn’t have that initial draw to it like many of Innerspeaker’s beauties. “Mind Mischief,” for instance, kicks off with an unforgettable guitar line, distorted but clear, that layers with a dreamy chorus. Eventually the song floats off into this lovesick disbelief, with Parker singing, “She remembers my name” and evoking some post-high school dance memory — basking in a glow of a social event magically turned successful. “Mind Mischief” eventually beams off into phasered reverberating guitars while Parker’s voice become muffled and incoherent. The dude’s left the planet.
“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is another song that has instant appeal, but nothing on Lonerism has as strong a pull as “Elephant,” which kicks off with a hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll sound not too far from the likes of an AC/DC intro. The song enters the album like, well, an elephant crashing through all the psychedelic mush, and if it sounds out of place on such a floaty, cool-headed, Lonerism, that’s because it was originally created during a pre-Innerspeaker jam session. But even “Elephant” avoids being too straightforward — about a minute in, the song morphs into an intermission of fuzzy jams that don’t hit and punch — they glide. Then the song returns to the same heavy, crunchy sound.
Some songs like “Music to Walk Home By” and “Keep on Lying” might get lost in the mix due to their tendency to melodically wander, but isn’t that the point of Lonerism — to let yourself get lost in the noise? In “Keep on Lying,” the song eventually drifts into what sounds like a party, created again by Kevin’s recordings of unknowing subjects. You begin to feel like you’re dozing off on the couch in the corner while the party continues to buzz around you, the voices and music combining and extending into a bizarre semiconscious haze. If you were planning to get fucked up beyond speech this weekend, spare yourself the hangover and just listen to someone else experience it for you.
But nothing argues for the sake of voyeuristic wandering like the closing track, “Sun’s Coming Up (Lambingtons).” The song begins with a delightfully melancholy piano and Parker’s strangely barren vocals devoid of psychedelic embellishments. He offers the ominous line “I disconnect completely, see how that works out,” after which the song drags on despondently until he sighs, “I guess it’s over.” Cue hugely distorted guitar, rippling over the end of the album as we hear recorded footsteps walking on a beach, eventually reaching the water. And then, there it is, the irony of Lonerism — the entire album unraveling as a girl’s voice pops up on the recording at the end of “Sun’s Coming Up,” quickly cut off with the press of a button. While Parker insists upon his lonerism on a beach, at a party, in a hotel room — well, he’s not quite alone, is he?