Life is filled with an incessant ebb and flow. Moving forward while the past tugs us back. Dealing with the mundane patterns of every day that somehow fly by. Appreciating the present running in tandem with a solidified past and an uncertain future. Kevin Parker untangles this web of contradictions in the fourth studio album from his Australian ensemble, Tame Impala. After the endlessly replayable, ear-melting breakup album that was “Currents,” expectations were unquestionably high for Parker’s next endeavor, especially considering his five-year hiatus and cult-like following. Although “The Slow Rush” doesn’t quite meet the cohesiveness of its predecessor, a few diamonds can be found in the dunes of this disco, synth-laden fantasy.
“We’re on a roller coaster stuck on its loop-de-loop / Cause what we did, one day on a whim, will slowly become all we do.” From its dreamy, ambient opening to a triumphant conclusion, “The Slow Rush” describes the many ruts one can fall into while distractedly driving through an increasingly complex life. From fears of commitment in young love to riding a dangerous borderline between the unreachable past and disappointing present, the thematic material on the album is impressively varied, an aspect that is both a strength and weakness. While it’s enjoyable to witness Parker pen some of his most personal songs to date (most notably “Posthumous Forgiveness,” which touches upon his conflicting feelings about his distant father, now deceased), the wide range of subjects makes the project feel cluttered. Perhaps this diversity is in service of capturing the often random string of experiences that life can offer, but quickly jumping from one situation to the next runs the risk of making the subject lost. Even rearranging some tracks to match similar content would improve the overall flow by leaps and bounds.
Sonically, “The Slow Rush” feels like driving back in your Ford Escort from a fifth rewatch of “Back to the Future,” mullet whipping defiantly in the air. It permeates the air with lavish 80’s vibes. “Borderline,” “Lost in Yesterday” and “Is it True” are my favorite tracks by far, simply because they feel like golden tickets of escape to some stylish nightclub, where the beat refuses to stop. Synthpop melodies paired with funky 70’s drums send each song barreling to the point of collapse, and then they just keep going. I also love the hopeless optimism of “On Track” paired with unbelievable, jet engine crescendos. It takes me back to the days of Mr. Moore exuberantly blasting Corey Hart during passing time in APUSH.
Despite these high points, some tracks fall flat in their attempts to soar. “Instant Destiny” and “Breathe Deeper,” while admirable in their discussion of relationships and self-assurance, simply don’t hold up to the previously mentioned songs. Parker has shown increased maturity as a musician, as I’ve noticed the repetitive tendency of some Tame Impala material has been counteracted by increased musical diversity within the span of each song. However, these two tracks felt like more of a step back from this growth, as I became lulled by benumbing banality. Artists aren’t required to reinvent themselves musically with each new body of work. That’s an unhealthy expectation that leads to major disappointments from both listener and creator. But these songs comparatively feel so much staler than others that they quickly dissolve into obscurity.
“The Slow Rush” is a beautiful, musical smorgasbord. Sure, the album can be slow. There’s noticeable filler, and the payoffs sometimes feel few and far between. But when Parker’s angelic voice and atmospheric synth are in sync, when the stars finally align, this is an undeniable rush.