Thirty years ago, a band from Liverpool called The La’s released a single called There She Goes, an ecstatic rush of longing which may or may not have been about taking heroin.
Released the following year, their eponymous debut album had been subject to endless tampering by singer Lee Mavers; whilst many still claim it was the greatest British album of the era Mavers, who went into hiding soon after it appeared and has barely resurfaced since, has dismissed it as ‘shit’. This, you reckon, is what living with a musical genius is like.
While not quite as reclusive, Kevin Parker has Mavers-perfectionist virus running through his veins. His is not a world in which single mindedness is someone else’s problem: he plays every instrument, writes every note on all of Tame Impala’s records, each recorded in his home studio. Such is his uncompromising approach to quality control that, after hearing just four tracks of The Slow Rush at a Brooklyn listening party last year, he decided to remaster the whole thing.
These are the kind of choices you can make when you’re one of the most streamed acts on the planet, this new record a further way station on a journey that began in the knotty psychedelia of 2010’s Innerspeaker, stopping off with Lonerism (2012), before the panoramic Currents granted him an almost unique status as a reluctant superstar living at an oblique angle to the pop world.
Not that any of its rules affect him: Slow Rush is anything but superficial, its languorous sprawl containing three tracks in excess of six minutes long, one of which, the wonderful mid-eighties funk of Breathe Deeper, could’ve been better placed as a climactic party finisher as opposed to being dropped into the mix when the night has barely begun.
If his total artistic control is in no doubt, neither is Parker’s ability to join the dots into what the old timers called a hit. Borderline sparkles with his AOR fairy dust, a twinkling house number with verses about self-discovery, while Lost In Yesterday rolls in on deep soulful Hall & Oates chords before arming itself with a waspish disco swing. Both sound completely effortless.
Things have changed in Parker’s life since Currents, which was nominally a break-up album, the most obvious of those being his recent marriage to Sophie Lawrence. Signs of the obsessive letting life get in the way are not always obvious however, instead the singer ponders whether he’s still relevant at the grand old age of 34 on the lustrous It Might Be Time, while he chooses to re-examine his relationship with his father (who died in 2009) on the sober Posthumous Forgiveness.
Or maybe there are: the epic closer One More Hour contains the line, “Whatever I’ve done, I did for love”, but it’s the album’s most stripped back moment, sometimes existing on a single keyboard phrase repeated over and over, the stop-start tensions revealing a coarser edge amongst the polished multi-tracking.
There’s a certain attraction to being your own boss, because when he can’t sleep at night worrying about a key change, you don’t either. The Slow Rush doesn’t sound like the product of a man who can’t let go, more the realisation of some intricate dreams which only he will ever fully understand.
Somewhere in Liverpool, Lee Mavers will be smiling to himself.