The song fits snugly alongside the rest of their discography with their unique interpretation of psychedelic sound.
The song’s instrumentals are dreamy and nostalgic, reminiscent of and deliberately referencing psych rock of the 1960s. The music, like much of their music, is sweet and sits comfortably in its instrumental but is complicated by its wary-of-the-world lyrics.
Tame Impala often explore less-than-gleeful topics like unrequited love, feeling useless and not being good enough.
“The Boat I Row” explores themes of being unfamiliar with the world and being unable to control life’s path. In the first verse, singer and guitarist Kevin Parker says: “It’s hard to self-assure/When everyone’s a pro/Saying, ‘It’s so obvious’/But really, they don’t know.”
Parker is discussing the way people feign understanding of their lives and fate when in reality, everyone is as clueless as Parker himself admits to being. Tame Impala seems to imply that it’s better to be honest about their lack of control by speaking on their flaws and troubles: “Endless problems/Relentless/I know I’m oblivious/Bit overzealous/And possibly jealous.”
While the song is critiquing the way people are misleading by saying they feel secure in life, the song’s commentary isn’t entirely pessimistic. It also promotes perseverance throughout as well as in the song’s title. One lyric that comes to mind is the repeated line “So onward, I go.” The rowing may be monotonous and at times difficult, and the imagery evoked by the name doesn’t suggest that they know their destination. Nevertheless, they persist.
Photo credit: Kalyn Oyer