Submerging myself in the self-examining, contemplative lyricism, I imagined, swallowed up within the sand dunes, Kevin Parker in his mid-30s, married and successful, years of weight piling up by his doorsteps, finally getting a grip of reality, a brief moment of clarity out of the sand. Seeing the light in the clearing at last, he steps forth for self-liberation, overcoming the obstacles that've sheltered him for so long: the pressure of his music career, a dead father, an unhealthy fixation on the past, broken family relationships, friends. Greatly reflected by the warm, lush musical passages and mellow atmosphere, The Slow Rush, in this aspect, is perhaps the moment Kevin's been waiting for his entire career, the one album he's always wanted to make.
As an outsider, I sometimes envy him, but really, I can only begin to imagine the difficulty, the pressure of leading the creative process for a project as grand as Tame Impala. With such high standards people may hold you to after all these years, having complete control of the art in the studio would very much be crippling in ways. The isolation that comes with working on, essentially, everything by yourself and being the only one with the vision of the work certainly leaves a man in the entrapment of his own thoughts. That's where the concept encased in The Slow Rush truly falls in place and comes to form. I give him full credit for holding all the pieces of the puzzle together!
Kevin Parker's no stranger in delivering introspection and exhibiting self-deprecation in the form of melancholic songwriting and psychedelia in his art, but what separates this record apart from previous endeavors like Currents is his ability to, naturally, open up to his audience, a moment of humanization and enlightenment that might've previously been lacking, and in a narrow sense, a respectful nod to the era of Lonerism. Part of the reason that Currents didn't resonate as wholeheartedly came down to its cleaned-up, pristine, spotless sound, perfected to the point of oversaturation. Such qualities put a lot of distance in our general connection with Kevin Parker as an artistic figure. While The Slow Rush shares very similar aspects with the soundscapes that carried through on Currents, this record indulges in mystical, existential beauty, all while very natural in substance and pertaining its focus to the man behind the falsetto. Rarely overpowering, The Slow Rush is Kevin's moment of open sincerity and relentless passion.
Following a rather coherent concept that spans a good majority of the 12 tracks, The Slow Rush offers a fascinating array of lyricism that, while exposing Kevin's songwriting cheesiness at times, shows substantive personal growth that greatly makes up for the record's small deficiency in musical ambition.
"One More Year", though a bit superficial and sheltered in instrumentation, brings forth the notion of living life to its fullest and letting go of time. The track title itself, when taken in context with some of the lyrics, is an eye-catching reference to the 5-year gap in between this album and Currents. Various other tracks handle this notion regarding the passage of time, and interestingly, reflect upon Kevin's music career as well, whether it's the groovy, bass guitar-dominated funky "Lost In Yesterday", or the reflective, densely thick instrumentation on "It Might Be Time", or the incredible self-healing, lovingly warm optimism of "One More Hour", a diverging album closer with soaring anthemic riffs and drums handled with precision, as with the rest of the album. "Posthumous Forgiveness" is perhaps one of Tame Impala's most uniquely devastating and haunting songs, a track that uncovers the broken relationship between Kevin and his father, along with the crushing anguish following his death, a moment of pure distress. Such climactic pain is followed up remarkably by moments of reconciliation and neutrality with some of the album's slower cuts. "Breathe Deeper" serves as Kevin's spiritual meditation, somewhat contrasted by the diverging, roughed up grooves. "Tomorrow's Dust" and "On Track" appropriately fit as The Slow Rush's "ballads", one featuring a comforting, very faint spoken word bit from none other than Kevin's wife, and the latter being a pristinely lush, colorfully-arranged, amazing psychedelic power ballad.
Songs that otherwise don't add much to the overall narrative and theme of the album are luckily not put to waste courtesy of glamorous, touching production. "Borderline" specifically the song in question, is greatly improved in the contextual, refined album cut where prominent funky, catchy bass grooves and adorable flute notes add a ton of flavor to elevate the song from its washed-out, watery synth single version.
The unfortunate reality is that many fans, especially those still craving that Lonerism and pristine Currents sound, are easy to dismiss The Slow Rush for its refined, pop-centered, "mainstream", "dumbed down" approach in production, skipping over everything else completely. The many aspects of The Slow Rush that encourage deep listening and analyzing are experiences to be missed upon when one rushes to get a rating and half-baked review out instead of breaking down the chunks into manageable pieces. The Slow Rush is a record I did not expect to like as much as I did. I was in the mentality that Tame Impala, following Currents, was never going to make another great record, and that subsequent releases would demonstrate the project's eventual creative fade-away. I was wrong to make such a judgment, and it's evidently not a healthy way to look upon music as an art form.
The Slow Rush, from what I've dissected, is Kevin Parker solidifying an element of clarity once again in his works. Patiently polished to Kevin's full artistic intention, The Slow Rush finds Tame Impala again in an area of conceptual focus, overcoming the awkward, convoluted transition from psych rock to psych pop/synth pop. The result? Perhaps the one record he's been waiting to share to the world for a long time...
FAV TRACKS: Borderline, Posthumous Forgiveness, Breathe Deeper, Tomorrow's Dust, On Track, Lost In Yesterday, It Might Be Time, One More Hour
LEAST FAV TRACK: Glimmer