A new era for the one-man icon
The liberty of indulgence is what can set an artist free. For Kevin Parker, indulgence has always been an easy cue – swimming underwater, travelling through time, ’90s vocoding – his sound is maybe most encompassing of one of the century’s major shifts in music, and while it’s a pretty mammoth statement to be making, he has got a presence in today’s industry that’s thoughtfully style-affirming. It’s especially easy for younger generations, who have grown up with him since Innerspeaker, to understand, and the best part is that Parker has given this influence without any desire for commercial by-line. It’s what makes him respectable – even if Tame Impala isn’t the kind of band you get along with, it’s certain there’s not a single young person around today who hasn’t appreciated his music at some point in time.
The Slow Rush comes at the turn of a decade, and with so much detracting from the enjoyment of this exciting time (an impending world war, a global health pandemic, half a continent on fire), we aren’t only welcoming Parker’s bronze return, we’re rejoicing in it – opening on a spaced-out stuttering and a breakdown groove, “One More Year” is the plunging and immense opener you want.
From the start it seems that Kevin Parker is favouring an easier melodic frame if that even exists in his world – maybe it’s better just to agree that Parker has found a soft spot for melodies, and they’re seriously working to his advantage on this record. He favours them more intimately, and breaks their dream production, such that the tracks feel less produced, and not necessarily because they are, but because Parker has established a command over his skills that has seriously reached its peak.
“Posthumous Forgiveness” easily stands as one of the best things Parker has ever done, and it’s down to redefining that sound he has so extensively created. In a recent interview he gave for triple j, Parker admitted that he sometimes “forgets that he can make music that is powerful,” and while that may ring true for his previous records, The Slow Rush is more of a monolithic spacetime super bowl than anything gladly afraid, “Posthumous Forgiveness” the head-long beast driving this thing. “Every time I cut off a bit of myself and put it out there/ the reward has been worth it;” in this sense, Parker seems to be feeding off of that realization, and the result is something truly acquainted with the sounds of his desires.
The instrumentation is more acoustic too (“Tomorrow’s Dust”), as he roots himself more deeply in the performance rather than the sound itself. The vocals don’t try so hard, they’re actually very repetitive, (“Borderline”), but still the sound is kept wholly intact. The tracks are less linear, and they’re largely experimental because Parker has pushed himself out on the boat and thrown down the sails. He has established a new era for his sound, but without succumbing to the pressure of making that change in a successful or likeable way. He’s doing it for himself this time, and the level of personal touch he brings, above all else, has grown into something that feels more daring than ever before.
But the sound might not always be in place. Take for example the futuristic piano on “Breathe Deeper” – it’s like some ’90s video game theme music, while the wheezing sirens on “It Might Be Time” also don’t sit so tight. Parker’s music has always retained aspects of ’80s disco-pop, the processing of the vocals especially so, but for an album that is so progressive in its move away from conventional genre, there doesn’t seem to be space for any kind of ‘old’ sound here, and it honestly feels like he could have got rid of it a long time ago.
Kevin Parker has never been the musician to take himself too seriously, such that his lightness in approach permeates the music for the sake of balance. Never too much, but hardly too little. There’s a lot to unpack in this record – we might be interrogating it for a while – but that’s what makes a record worthwhile, and if by the end of it we still haven’t made up our minds, one thing is for sure – Kevin Parker is taking his sound into a new territory and with unmistakable strength.