“I’m so bored with the U.S.A
I’m so bored with the U.S.A
But what can I do?”
– The Clash
I can’t love Tame Impala but I do like them. All of their studio albums are a full exhausting trips.
[Editor’s Note. Dan does not advocate the use of illegal substances. The references to drugs are meant as similes not endorsements. Dan has never done any of the drugs mentioned and only knows about their effects through the testimony of his artistic friends.]
“Innerspace” is a DMT trip in which you meet God and he’s in a Prog Rock cover band with Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, and Frank Zappa. Angels play electric guitars. Satan got kicked out for playing Neil Diamond and is now the manager of the Weeknd, Justin Bieber, and Fall Out Boy.
“Lonerism” is an acid trip flashback to “Innerspace.” After listening to it you are awarded a degree in Eastern Philosophy.
“Currents” is salvia. It’s an emotional trip through the subconscious of a catatonic Dead Head.
The problem with Tame Impala is that they make albums that can’t be casually experienced and can’t be interrupted.
They are the sole heirs of the knowledge of the prog rock powerhouses of the 70’s: Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and Yes. But like most psychedelics, to really enjoy Tame Impala you need time, a clear mind, and money (Remember to tip your artists, music critics, and drug dealers!)
I can already hear the vinyl heads yelling at me. “I thought you were one of us, mannn. You said you dug albums not singles. Where’s the love, man? You’re just a mod. A lousy long-haired wannabe rock critic mod.”
Alright dudes, chill out. Go back to arguing over whether Quicksilver Messenger Service is better than Moby Grape.
Yes, I do listen to albums all the way through and do buy physical albums but I have to admit that I don’t have the mind to dedicate extreme amounts of time to listening to one album. Even the staunchest rock dogmatists have to agree with me when I say that “The Wall” is a bit too long.
I’m not saying artists should make less experimental albums or should resort to a formula. If anything we need more people making more experimental albums to contribute to the metaphorical sandbag wall we music lovers are trying to construct to block the rising tides of mumble rap and pop trash. All I’m saying is that we do need to consider whether experimental music is interesting or just oppressive.
See I’m more of a sunshine type of guy. I like short, mellow, and manageable experiences . And that’s why I recommend the new album by Tame Impala’s drummer, Barbagallo, “Danse Dans Les Ailleurs.”
I admit this is going to be a challenge to convince my fellow Americans that they should listen to a French album (and that they should read a review of another solo album by a drummer. I promise this is just a coincidence and not a trend. Sorry Ringo.)
What will make this review better is an admission of mine: I don’t speak French. If I can’t judge the lyrics, what can I judge? Answer: The sound.
“L’échappée” begins the album with some cowboy strumming. The piano is playful like a street performer. You begin to realize something (that you will notice as you listen to the album closely) namely, that the song sounds like a cover of the theme song to Scrubs.
One of the strengths of this album is that Barbagallo uses American and British sounds and melodies to frame his songs. He manages to maintain his Jacque Brel-ian allegiance to France but unlike French postmodern philosophy, it’s accessible. He leaves his différances at the door.
Songs such as “L’échappée” and “Les grandes visions” sound like TV theme songs with their quick pop beats. And what’s not to like about theme songs? They are the overtures for TV show.
But this conformity and repetitiveness does not imply banality. The sound keeps your mood at a baseline. The synthesizers that appear 3/4s of the way through the song don’t distract but instead accent the song like a lemonade on a hot day.
Songs like “Boucher sauvage” and “L’offrande” sound like 50’s R&B. When the guitar and other non-classical instruments arrive you realize you have traveled seamlessly into the sixties. Barbagallo’s voice stays at a conversational tone. He’s not a performer but rather your friend that decided to bring a guitar along to the picnic and surprise surprise, he doesn’t play “Wonderwall”!
“Longtemps possible” starts you off with an emotional medieval guitar ballad but it’s not playful (ironic?) or lustful, it’s dreamy. With every piano strike you descend deeper into a dream. The light guitar playing keeps you calm. The inclusion of the female singer turns the song into an image of two lovers resting at the top of a hill, watching the sun set, not caring that it’s one less sun set that they’ll live to see, but instead allowing the moment to serve as a promise for another day, another sunset, another memory. Together.
The synthesized violin is a light wave goodbye to the sun. The sky is now navy blue. Barbagallo says one last word, a lyrical conclusion to a vivid song.
“Les mains lentes” is an acoustic Tame Impala song. You can hear the Pink Floyd influences with every maracca shake and church bell. It’s experimental but not necessarily oppressive. The piano does get annoying. The saxophone tries to make up for his little brother, the piano, by attempting to calm us but the background noise sounds like an alarm clock. “Forget the dream, wake up! EH EH EH EH” This feeling of an abrupt wake up call is continued in the last song “Je me tais.”
While drugs may have created some of the greatest music of all time (and killed most of the creators), I am strongly in favor of listening to new music sober. Schopenhauer says somewhere in his “pessimistic” (I think it’s realistic…but that’s just me) philosophic treatise, The World as Will and Representation, that music is the one art form that brings us in contact with the beauty of the Ideal world.
While others are off escaping this world via psychedelics and severing their ties to their ego to find the world spirit, God, or their car keys, I’ll be here sober, smiling, and listening to a French man speak to me in a universal language that we can all understand: music.