Tame Impala - Lonerism (Vinyl)

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Lonerism is the second studio album by Australian musical project Tame Impala, released on 5 October 2012 by Modular Recordings. Like the band's debut studio album, Innerspeaker (2010), Lonerism was written, recorded, performed, and produced by Kevin Parker, with live member Jay Watson contributing on two tracks. Recorded mostly in Perth, Australia, and Paris, France, Lonerism builds on the psychedelic sound of its predecessor and features fewer guitars and more synthesisers and samples. Parker attempted to incorporate his love for pop music into his songwriting for the record through catchier melodies. Many tracks feature ambient sounds recorded by Parker with a dictaphone. The album's theme of isolation is reflected in the album cover, featuring an image of a fenced-off Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

Kevin Parker started writing and recording new material for Lonerism almost immediately after releasing Innerspeaker, saying "I started writing songs straight after Innerspeaker, but I told myself I wouldn't get hung up with the pressure, so I kinda pretended they were for some other weird project that wasn't going to have as much consequence".[7] While Innerspeaker was recorded in a very structured manner with a designated time period to record, Parker recorded Lonerism in many different places around the world whilst touring with Tame Impala. Speaking about this, Parker revealed "I've got a recording thing with me at the moment, I can do vocal takes and guitar takes wherever I am, so it's getting recorded all over the world. There's a guitar take in Vienna, or a vocal take in the aeroplane from Singapore to London. I've got my studio at home, so a lot is being done in Perth."

Speaking about the recording of the record in a 2019 interview with Beats 1's Matt Wilkinson, Parker went into more detail about his home setup in Perth: "It was this amazing time of unhinged experimentation and exploration. I would record until 5am, I’d go to sleep and wake up and start again. I’d just be drinking red wine all night and smoking spliffs. It was this really, really amazing time. This period of discovery. I had found a new guitar sound which led to me finding a new way of writing chords. And these new chords were making me write music that was conjuring up emotions that I hadn’t felt in a long time. It reminded me of being a child again, basically."

 In late 2010, Parker ran into some problems with the new album: "I had all these demos, half of the new album, on my iPod. And I've got a hole in my bag and it fell out somewhere between Amsterdam and London. So I've been really freaked out recently that the album's just going to turn up on YouTube, half finished, or that it's just going to come out under some other Dutch band name." The demos were later found and returned to Parker. Parker later relocated to Paris in 2011 and "crammed into this little Paris apartment, which looks like a reclusive bunker".

Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker once studied astronomy in university, which seems fitting—this plays like a psychedelic space opera, with galaxy-sized guitars playing over percussion that feels like planets colliding. And yet this supernova of sound actually accompanies a lyrical trip to inner space—not the grand destinations, but the common ones, the ones that would feel mundane if they weren’t so artfully rendered.

There are forays through familiar territory: love found and lost and never really given, the standard messing-with-my-heart that feels major because it happens to you, even though it happens to everyone. And those songs are actually quite awesome. (The album’s musical high point’s probably the looping “Keep On Lying,” a circular meta-song about the repetitiveness of our character defects, a song whose message is as much in its structure as in its lyrics. “I guess I’ll go and tell you just as soon as I get to the end of this song, to the end of this song, to the end of this song…” he croons, and not only does the lyric deliberately repeat, but the track fades in mid-song and fades out midway, implying that the listener will never get the promised explanation, just a lot of psychedelic guitar pyrotechnics that will hopefully distract them.) But the album has plenty of other things to say about the inner voyage; there are also great meditations on anonymity and stardom, on being special in a generation where everyone was told they were special—and then discovering that you are special, only nobody else knows it, and you don’t know how to deal with all the loneliness that entails.

“This could be the day that it goes through. It could be the day that all our dreams come true,” he coos on “Apocalypse Dreams,” and his angst will be familiar to anyone who’s ever waited for the life-changing deal, the big opportunity from the agent or the label, the Email That Will Change Everything. He does know he’s gotta pay his dues first—“I gotta bide my time as a face in the crowd,” he observes on “Gotta Be Above It.” But above and beyond that’s the longing for a truly transformative experience, a chance to pass through a stargate of sorts to a different world, out of the crowd and onto a stage and into our hearts. And yet he has the good sense to not only show sadness about the length of the journey, but worry about whether it’s even worthwhile: “Am I getting closer?” he asks. “Will I ever get there? Does it even matter?”

Given all the angst and alienation it’s appropriate, perhaps, that Parker’s from Perth, one of the most isolated big cities on the planet, the far end of the English-speaking world. But it should also be noted that he’s voicing the frustrations of an entire generation. On the basis of his sound and vocal qualities, he’s earned comparisons to John Lennon. To my mind it’s not entirely fair, partly because Tame Impala’s basically a solo project and, for my money, he’s better than Lennon was solo. (Although I’m hardly the first to notice this, it seems that without the input of the other Beatles, there were no checks on Lennon’s arty extravagances.) And he’s staking his own claim as a voice of a generation—albeit a fragmented generation, one where Beatles-like superstardom may no longer be possible because there is no more monoculture, less broadcasting, and instead a multitude of voices howling into the void.

It took me a few years to check this album out; I felt like it was being overrated—and there is, after all, SOOO MUCH music to listen to nowadays. Now I’m kicking myself for missing out. It’s retro and futuristic and timeless, and I suspect that when 2020 rolls around, it’ll be on my top ten of the decade.

By: Gerald Brennan

A1 Be Above It
A2 Endors Toi
A3 Apocalypse Dreams
B1 Mind Mischief
B2 Music To Walk Home By
B3 Why Won't They Talk To Me?
C1 Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
C2 Keep On Lying
C3 Elephant
D1 She Just Won't Believe Me
D2 Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control
D3 Sun's Coming Up

Artwork By, Layout – Leif Podhajsky
Mastered By – Greg Calbi
Mixed By – Dave Fridmann
Photography By [Cover] – KP
Photography By [Studio] – Matthew C. Saville
Written-By, Piano, Keyboards – Jay Watson (tracks: A3, C3)
Written-By, Producer, Recorded By, Vocals, Instruments – Kevin Parker