Tame Impala, O2 Brixton Academy, London
Wednesday 31 October 2012
To the casual observer, it might seem that Australia’s new psychedelic heroes Tame Impala have plonked into the big time out of nowhere; in fact this headline slot at Brixton crowns a steady build of three years among the UK’s more paisley-minded types.
It’s their second album Lonerism that’s really made it for them, a sparklingly self-absorbed shrine at which this notably glossy-haired crowd has come to nod.
Kevin Parker, Tame Impala’s singer and sonic wizard, and his crew begin with "Be Above It", the mantra-like, murmuring roll that also opens Lonerism. Like the song that follows, "Solitude Is Bliss", it’s both beautifully made, an obsessively precise study in psych mannerisms, and possessed of an insular, neurotic obsession with Parker's social inadequacies.
Many of his songs, as the title of Lonerism suggests, focus on shyness, ostracism, feelings of detachment. Where friends The Horrors make very similar sonic inspirations into something dark and cosmic, sometimes Parker, looking wan and centre-parted on Brixton’s big stage tonight, comes across more as a moper at the gates of dawn, on too much of a bummer to search for the doors of perception, settling instead on the doormat of dejection and writing songs with titles like "Why Won't They Talk To Me?"
While not wishing to steal Parker's lunch money while he's down, Tame Impala, like their offshoot band Pond (Parker also lends his production skills to his girlfriend Melody Prochet’s project Melody’s Echo Chamber), are best when at their most bullish, when the likes of recent single "Elephant" or the bouncy, poppy "Lucidity" romp around the vast hall like hale and hearty sun-fed Aussie psych monsters.
They’re at they’re most dull when contemplating their own trip, and towards the end of tonight's show, that feels like a little too often. When they err on their Led Zep rather than their Syd Barrett side, though, they’re pretty unstoppable, and as he sets the whizzy, Dandy Warhols-ish psych-pop of "Desire Be, Desire Go" spinning, the previously sheepish Parker looks like he knows it.
They’re a formidable live band, filling this imposing venue with great hypnotic swirls and swoons of keys and effects, swathing cascades and chasms of smartly structured rhythm. And as they grow in confidence, it can’t be long before Parker’s grandiose musical structures become the vehicle for an inner journey to something grander than first-day-at-school nerves.
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