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An Exit Survey for Tame Impala’s ‘The Slow Rush’

Join us on an exploration of time, synthesizers, and Kevin Parker’s lofty goal of becoming the king of modern pop music

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In 2015, Kevin Parker released Currents, his third album under the name Tame Impala and one of the most heralded releases of the 2010s. Two months into a new decade, Parker has returned with The Slow Rush, an album that tries to push Tame Impala’s sound forward while Parker himself looks backward. In the present, the Ringer staff has written out their first reactions to hearing the new album.

1. What is your tweet-length review of The Slow Rush?

Andrew Gruttadaro: We Need to Talk About Kevin(‘s Clock Obsession)

Justin Sayles: If you live in L.A., you know the kind of guy who takes ayahuasca, has multiple meditation apps on his phone, and is sleeping with at least three different girls in his yoga class at any given time. The Slow Rush is that guy come to life.

Matt James: Only Tame Impala could manage to put out an absolutely incredible album that qualifies as a minor disappointment.

Sean Yoo: Think Currents but with DRUMS and an artist obsessing over the intricacies of time; the hopes and regrets that you face while thinking about the past, present, and future.

Cory McConnell:

All my friends are growin’ up
And movin’ on
I must be missin’ somethin’
... It might be time to face it
You may as well embrace it

2. What is your favorite song on the album?

James: “Borderline” was released in April of last year, but one of the big surprises of The Slow Rush is that the album version of “Borderline” is different, and much better; the drums sound bigger and the bass has been brought to the foreground of the song. Kevin Parker might have gotten pretty deep in his head about this track but it definitely paid off—it feels expertly distilled into the most cohesive and potent song on the album.

McConnell: “Breathe Deeper,” the track in which Parker most fully gives himself over to the stylistic leanings he’s getting at with this album. The track works because of how fully he commits to that sonic palette, as opposed to some of the others where he’s trying too hard to marry that new sound with the classic Tame Impala trappings.

Yoo: “Breathe Deeper” is one that sticks out. The drums are addicting and the combination of the airy synths and house pianos make a perfect harmony. “I’m most creative when I’m uncomfortable. Like getting high in public,” Parker told Zane Lowe while explaining how he came up with the beginning of the song. Extremely relatable stuff; just breathe deep, fam.

Gruttadaro: “One More Hour,” a massive song with a patented Tame Impala outro and entrancing drum effects. I’ve listened to The Slow Rush once or twice—I’ve listened to “One More Hour” 500 times.

Sayles: “One More Hour” is his most successful attempt at blending ’70s arena-rock vibes with his synth-psych sensibilities. A great album closer.

3. What is your least favorite song on the album?

Gruttadaro: “Instant Destiny,” the second-shortest song on the album that feels like the longest.

Yoo: I’m pretty much over “Borderline,” maybe because I played it a bunch of times and I’m sick of it. Or maybe because the song sounds super redundant.

James: “Tomorrow’s Dust” is a song that I very much enjoy but it’s still my least favorite song on the album. It’s a bit overlong for a song that’s not particularly memorable, and it sounds like well-traveled territory for Tame Impala in 2020.

McConnell: This is more of a sequencing issue than a problem with the song itself, but Kevin Parker put his distant dad jam (“Posthumous Forgiveness”) right up front, in between two certified bangers in “Borderline” and “Breathe Deeper.” I’d have preferred it if he’d taken a cue from the ’70s and ’80s influences he’s calling on and sequenced the album like a vinyl from that era—bangers up front, ballads in the back.

Sayles: “Borderline” feels like an attempt to bring back those Currents vibes, but it just doesn’t hit the same.

4. Which other album did Kevin Parker listen to most when making The Slow Rush?

Yoo: Seems like the only thing he was listening to was Currents.

McConnell: Genesis’s Duke comes to mind. Listen to Genesis’s “Misunderstanding,” add some wobbly Juno synths, some house piano, the signature Tame Impala compression-crushed drums, and you’re most of the way to what’s happening on The Slow Rush.

Gruttadaro: I wanna say Supertramp’s Breakfast in America?

James: Well, the actual answer that he gave to this question is “nothing.” But one element that surfaces on several tracks of The Slow Rush is the use of some very acidic synths. The last minute of “Breathe Deeper,” the back end of the chorus of “Is It True,” and the revised bass of “Borderline” are all beautifully acid washed. It’s a fairly new sound for Tame Impala, but one that feels like a natural evolution from the guitar distortion techniques of past albums.

Sayles: I hear some Krautrock, some Daft Punk, some Peter Frampton. The biggest compliment I can pay Parker is: He’s actually able to blend all of these things.

5. How will fans who discovered Tame Impala through Currents react to The Slow Rush?

McConnell: I suppose it depends on how long it takes for a Slow Rush song to get sampled by, like, Roddy Ricch.

Sayles: There’s nothing as good as the highs on Currents, but it’s hard to see the fans outright rejecting this. I don’t think this album would’ve made him a Coachella headliner, but it won’t knock him from that status, either.

Yoo: I actually think they’ll go absolutely crazy for it.

James: I don’t expect you’ll find many people earnestly claiming that The Slow Rush is better than Currents but, at worst, there are a few songs for every Currents fan on this new album.

Gruttadaro: Anything Kevin Parker put out after Currents was going to feel a bit disappointing—it’s impossible to do that twice in a row. That said, I’m sure all the “time is a fleeting mistress” talk on The Slow Rush isn’t exactly hittin’ with the youths.

6. Songs, are they too long?

Gruttadaro: Or are they too short? Is time simply a construct that burdens our thoughts and feelings for the entirety of our existence? Think about that, man.

Sayles: After a while, all these six-minute synth jams with multiple movements start to sound identical.

McConnell: Two bars I went to this weekend were playing the album front-to-back on repeat, and in that context: no! More bar-hang-length Tame Impala albums would be fine.

Yoo: By themselves, no. But when you have a stretch of songs that are all over five minutes and kind of sound the same, it gets to be a little draining. I guess it makes sense why “Disciples,” at 1:48, is one of my favorite Tame Impala songs.

James: “Posthumous Forgiveness” and “Tomorrow’s Dust” could be condensed, but the real crime here is that “Glimmer” is barely over two minutes. “Glimmer” feels like a sketch of an incredible idea that was never fully realized. Strange that the track that most directly invokes house music has a running time so short that it barely allows one enough time to fully get in the groove. Perhaps this is another intentional exploration of the theme of time that permeates the album.

7. Which song from The Slow Rush should Rihanna cover?

McConnell: It’s an injustice that “Glimmer” is so short, so put her on there, make it a full-length song, and bask in the Euro-house hit of the century.

James: “Glimmer” immediately reminded me of the Lo-Fi House craze from a couple of years ago, and Rihanna’s vocals are often at their most emotive in this kind of hazy, late-night setting. And since this track is very nearly devoid of vocals, it would be an easy one for her to make her own.

Gruttadaro: I could definitely see her slowing “Glimmer” down a little and it being the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.

Yoo: “Is It True” might be one of the few songs on the album that sonically fits Rihanna’s vibe, but I would love to hear Rihanna sing “On Track.” I love that chorus and her singing the words “But strictly speaking, I’m still on track” would be a great clapback to everyone complaining about her album delay.

8. Parker says he wants to be “a Max Martin.” After listening to The Slow Rush, do you think he can be? Do you think he should be?

Yoo: Max Martin has one of the most iconic production résumés in the past 30 years, so it’s a bold claim coming from our guy Kevin. But at 34 years old, he has time to do it, and his recent production credits include Mark Ronson’s Late Night Feelings and Travis Scott’s Astroworld, two great records. But! If he wants to be the next Max Martin that might mean we wouldn’t get a new Tame album anytime soon, and I’m not sure I want to be a part of that future.

McConnell: No. He’s on an incredible run of albums with the four Tame Impala releases to date. Meanwhile, the most memorable pop feature he’s been a part of is … a bottom-tier Lady Gaga song?

Sayles: I enjoyed Post Malone’s “Circles” more than anything here, so yeah, let’s do it.

Gruttadaro: I think Parker can do whatever he sets his mind to (I am not, to be clear, Kevin Parker’s mom). But whether he should become our foremost pop song writer depends on whether he’ll be able to change pop or whether pop will change him. If it’s the former, let’s go—let’s get some synths on the new Shawn Mendes.