Review: Currents B-Sides

In seven years’ time, Tame Impala/Kevin Parker has released three cohesive, adventurous, and downright great psych-rock based studio albums. Their debut, Innerspeaker, found Parker messing with feedback and prog-based guitar explorations based off of late 60s and early 70s psychedelia. Lonerism took what its predecessor did and perfected the art even more, taking the rough edges of Innerspeaker and shaping it into cleaner, dreamier, and more polished excursions to get lost in. Tame’s third album, Currents, flipped the switch, with Parker messing more with poppy synthesizers and beats to playfully interact with the guitar, instead of the guitar taking the lead. Both Innerspeaker and Lonerism revolved around pop tropes but only dove into the real deep end on a few occasions, while the songs on Currents are clearly pop songs plainly hiding underneath decades of influence ranging from Krautrock to Bee Gees to Daft Punk. It could be said that Currents was perhaps more adventurous in spirit than in actual scope, but it remains important because it represented the moment when Parker went from being this generation’s most prominent psych-rock guru to being a master in the art of pop production. The fact that Parker made this transformation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since he is known for being meticulous in his productions, leaving nothing to chance or interpretation. Like the best music producers and arrangers, everything in his work is done (or not done) for a reason, which is why it’s clear that the b-sides to Currents, released more than two years after the album itself as a standalone release, remained b-sides instead of being chosen for inclusion on the album.

Tame Impala (fronted by Kevin Parker, far right) is one of the most well-known and supremely talented psychedelic rock groups of the 21st century.

There are five songs on this extension of Currents, three of which are new studio tracks, while the other two are remixes of tracks from the album. Out of the studio tracks, it is the first – “List of People (To Try and Forget About)” – that is the strongest, with the highlight being Parker stacking his words rhythmically in time to the driving beat. It’s by no means a perfect track though: no one besides Parker himself may know why he decided to interrupt the groove with an irritating “BEEP” instead of a more thoughtful breakdown or transition, or why there needed to be an unexciting and drawn out (nearly minute and half long!) outro. “Powerlines,” an instrumental, is another instance of a good idea being extended a little too much, starting off strong riding a fuzzy bass and vocoder shrouded vocal line, but it ends in much of the same place it started. The final new track we get on this release, the slow burning, brooding “Taxi’s Here” is another certifiably solid, but not extraordinary song, remaining at its peak when thought of as a very good b-side and nothing more. The two remixes – the first being an unnecessary and messy GUM remix of the most Lonerism-like track on Currents, “Reality in Motion,” and the second being the previously released “Let It Happen – Soulwax Remix” which takes a new, fresh perspective on the original without losing its feel. Any fan of Tame Impala, the production style of Kevin Parker, or modern psychedelic rock in general will enjoy this release as a continuation of the same themes on Currents. More than likely though, the enjoyment will only be for a brief amount of time – simply because the rest of Tame Impala’s discography remains head and shoulders above any of the mixed bag of songs on here.

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