Album Review: Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

[Modular; 2020]

From Grimes’ Miss Anthropocene to Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake to Soccer Mommy’s color theory, 2020 has already seen a slew of highly anticipated album releases, but perhaps no more than that of Kevin Parker and his singular psych-rock project, Tame Impala. Just last year the band headlined Coachella, helping push psych-pop/rock further into the mainstream. But, by failing to make good on promises of releasing a new album in the lead up to that headlining performance, the bar was set even higher. 

After blue-balling his fans to no end, Parker finally gave in to the clamoring with his latest project, The Slow Rush, almost a year later. Unfortunately, after years of anticipation, the reveal is an overtly tedious shell of everything Parker has ever charmed into existence. In fact, tedious may be an understatement.

Throughout The Slow Rush, Parker wrestles with the concept of time—fleeting and time never-ending—and yet he fails to consider the time of his listeners. With nearly every track exceeding the five minute mark, The Slow Rush clocks in at an unnecessary 57 minutes. The semi-appropriately titled The Slow Rush is an anti-climatic flex of Tame Impala’s once-unique neo-psych muscle, which has now become fatigued after only half a decade.

Album opener “One More Year” is a dizzying cut that quickly transmits the listener into hazy otherness, but they’re then left suspended, waiting to be taken into the next realm. The lack of a good hook and a bit too much of what Parker describes as a “Gregorian Robot Chant” means that in the end the only destination is emptiness.

“One More Year” is a discouraging start to the album, but the numbingly underperforming path that listeners are taken on translates through the entire album. Take the next track “Instant Destiny”, for example, a sweet tune about Parker’s engagement to his wife which recalls the synth-soaked ecstasy of Currents, but it’s bogged down by an incessantly annoying and cheesy chorus that again, takes the listener nowhere: “I’m about to do something crazy, no more delayin’ / No destiny is too far…”

“Posthumous Forgiveness” is yet another lyrically poignant track with Parker reflecting on the death of his estranged father. But at six minutes long, Parker’s bittersweet, introspective longing fails to land, pushing listeners to skip to the next track. There are many heartfelt sentiments expressed throughout Tame Impala’s latest. Unfortunately, he buries the potential for catharsis beneath a deluge of flaccid, half-baked replicas of his more ravishing artistic moments.

Even with the songs that are slightly above average, like “Borderline” or even “Lost in Yesterday”, Parker struggles to channel his ideas into complete, quintessentially Tame Impala bops. “Borderline” brandishes an intoxicating mix of wobbly synths and killer house piano, but again, the infectious parts fail to amount to a mesmerizing whole.

The deeper you dive into everything wrong with The Slow Rush, the more you’re convinced that you’re being transported into a failing Urban Outfitters outlet on the brink of closing its doors. Five years after the beloved Currents, you’d think that a truly special and inventive artistic mind like Parker’s would push the boundaries of what was and has been. But no, Tame Impala have failed to take an incredibly effective and timeless formula to new heights.