FIRST LISTEN: Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ was worth the wait

by Paige Ardill

FIRST LISTEN: Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ was worth the wait

Tame Impala

The Slow Rush

Universal / Interscope · February 14, 2020

FIRST LISTEN: Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’ was worth the wait

Tame Impala’s highly anticipated album, The Slow Rush, is finally here – and it is a love letter to frontman and mastermind Kevin Parker’s past, present, and future.

It’s been half a decade since Kevin Parker’s last critically acclaimed release Currents hit the headphones of his devoted listeners, and in those five years he has grown up in mind, body, spirit, and stats. During his hiatus, Parker got married (he recently celebrated his first wedding anniversary with Sophie Lawrence Parker), and only further proved his talents – collaborating with some of the biggest names in the industry including Mark Ronson, Travis Scott, James Blake, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Theophilus London, as well as Kendrick Lamar and SZA (the projects were never released). Currents, racking up around 1.23 billion streams on Spotify, helped launch Parker onto the worldwide charts, finding himself at #304, with just under 11.5 million monthly listeners – it is safe to say this period of time has been prolific.

However, on our side, it’s been pretty quiet. With two singles dropped in the early part of 2019, including “Patience” and “Borderline” – which debuted during his SNL performance on March 20th – fans anticipated the summer tour bracket (including headlining positions at Coachella, Boston Calling, Lollapalooza, and more), to be enriched with Tame Impala’s new masterful creation. Sadly, this was not the case, although it was a nice recap of his classic discography.

Come October, an ominous video was posted to Tame Impala’s Instagram featuring Parker in the studio. An extended version appeared on their website, overnight, including the title and release date of his fourth studio album: The Slow Rush, February 14th, 2020. The world shook, or at least within the parameters of the Tame Impala subreddit. Deep fans and new recruits scoured the internet for more information. Then came “It Might Be Time.” The song is a reflection of a man growing up and accepting that things are changing and that he is ready to change with them – a departure in mentality from the brooding and nostalgic holding on that he struggles with in his previous works – specifically “Desire Be, Desire Go” from his premier album Innerspeaker and “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” from Lonerism. In this song, he grapples with the realities of getting older. He speaks of not being as cool as he used to be, he speaks of his friends moving on with their lives, promising to come visit. At least to me, a devoted fan of over eight years, this seems to be his way of updating his fans on where he is in his life after a long while of near radio silence (though, not literally). Sure, it’s not the seven-minute-multi-dimensional-synth-track many people expected, but it stands its ground as a truth for Kevin.

On December 3rd, the second single of the album, “Posthumous Forgiveness” dropped. A longing, loving, moment of reflective forgiveness, Parker opens up about his father leaving. This song has elements of his Currents vision: brooding, nostalgic, and synthy as hell, full of interludes and interpretive breakdowns. The difference however, is how he frames it; as the song transitions into its second half, the pain that he emanates in the first three minutes comes to a precipice in a modular climax, transitioning into a solemn yet peaceful acceptance of what has come to pass. In the context of the album, this is perhaps an initial step in moving forward, quite possibly towards becoming a father, himself.

2020 was kicked off with The Slow Rush’s final single “Lost In Yesterday,” proving the album to be not just a departure in mentality, for Parker, but also in musicality. In this synth-pop bop that decides to look forward, not back, Parker realizes his ability to embrace the future, while still being able to appreciate the past without getting lost in it.

If Innerspeaker is of the mind, Lonerism is of the body, and Currents is of the soul, The Slow Rush is a warm, radiating light straight from the heart. Tame Impala’s previous albums have addressed Parker’s feelings of solitude, loneliness and the general ennui of existence, but within the time between then and now he has seemingly found a new purpose: Kevin Parker is in love, and he’s not afraid to show it.

So let’s recap the album, shall we?

If Innerspeaker is of the mind, Lonerism is of the body, and Currents is of the soul, The Slow Rush is a warm, radiating light straight from the heart.

“One More Year” is Parker’s way of coming to terms with his changing life, finding a space for himself in this newly blooming life, “I never wanted any other way to spend our lives / I know we promised we’d be doing this until we die / And now I feel we might…But it’s okay I think there’s a way / Why don’t we just say one more year?…Not worrying if I get the right amount of sleep / Not caring if we do the same thing every week / Of living like I’m only living for me / Of never talking about where we’re gonna be / One more year / Of living like the free spirit I wanna be.”

“Instant Destiny” is a psych-pop love song that toys with traditional organ chords meshed into modulated synth tones, a clear allusion to his recent marriage.

“Breathe Deeper” is a funkadelic promise of his devotion.

“Tomorrow’s Dust” is a moment of reflection and realization that each day he is a new person, and that the songs he wrote that once encapsulated him are no longer necessarily applicable (perhaps he is no longer making those same old mistakes); as the song trails off, a female voice is present, capturing (likely) Sophie Lawrence Parker saying, “yea, that’s the unknown.”

“On Track” likely regards Parker’s experience struggling to finish the album, noting to himself that he is still on track and that overthinking is not doing him any good. He recognizes that “it’s been a slow year”, and that there is “nothin’ much to show here / I didn’t really go for it, so not a lot to show for it.” In the past, Parker has made it abundantly clear that he is an overthinker, but he is furthermore a newly retired loner, as he mentions in the song, “So glad you’re coming over, I want to bring us closer”, a far departure from his mentality in Innerspeaker’s “Solitude Is Bliss”.

“Is It True” comes as an answer to Currents’ “‘Cause I’m A Man”. Reflecting on his actions and their purpose, “‘Cause I’m A Man” is an ‘and so it is’ moment, stating that he is “a man, woman / Don’t always think before I do”, whereas in “Is It True”, though he is still grappling with his innate tendencies, he shows a new source of inspiration for his actions to follow (love).

“Glimmer” is exactly what one would expect it to be: a fun, disco-synth instrumental interlude, a grown up “Nangs” in disco-appropriate clothing, if you will.

“One More Hour”, the final song on the album, loop-de-loops back to the beginning addressing the listeners directly: “Just a moment / Right before all the singing ends”. Here Parker lays out his mentality going into the creation of The Slow Rush, and showcases where his head (and heart) is while coming to peace with this new lease on life. Touching back upon his aforementioned desire for solitude, Parker is clearly coming to terms with this new chapter of sharing his life–both with his wife, and the world at large (in terms of the stress and pressures of stardom). “As long as I can / Long as I can / Spend some time alone / As long as I can / Long as I can/ Be the man I am.”

The Slow Rush is a disco-synth pop love letter, forgiving the past, allowing in turn, acceptance of what is, and what will be. So was it worth the wait? I’d say so. As a listener, the album is a new and exciting direction for Tame Impala’s sound, and as a devotee to the movement, hearing Kevin Parker this happy and in love can only derive a sense of joy and pure satisfaction.

And just like the title insinuates, the album came slowly…then all at once.