Saturday 28 May 2011
Dylan Jones: 'The Perth band Tame Impala’s music is aweird, if oddly topical, mix of the old and the new'
Occasionally – very occasionally, mind – a group's self-awareness is acute. The Pet Shop Boys always had a keen sense of themselves, probably because they didn't become famous until Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were approaching their thirties.
Tame Impala hail from Perth, in Western Australia, and perhaps have the distance to know exactly who they are. They describe themselves as a band that makes "steady-flowing psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock music that emphasises dream-like melody" (music which sits on the edge of ethereal "dream pop"). Which is actually bang on the Impala – they seem adept at layered sonic exploration, the sort that's filtered through sepia gauze, the sort that was big in the late Sixties, coming back in a fairly substantial way in the Nineties, when no one really cared what type of music anyone made anymore.
They formed in 2008, and owe rather a lot to the half century of pop that came before them. And even though they come from Perth, the most isolated city in the world, they appear to have heard most of the good stuff they came in the wake of.
"I can't stress enough how insignificant Tame Impala is," said band leader Kevin Parker a few weeks ago. He created Impala's 2010 debut, Innerspeaker, largely by himself – writing, playing and eventually recording himself at a house near Perth (with some mixing help later from Flaming Lips and MGMT producer Dave Fridmann in upstate New York).
Tame Impala sound like the Grateful Dead might have sounded if they'd been born in Japan, hired George Harrison as a singer, Burt Bacharach as a songwriter and George Martin as their producer. And then formed a supergroup with Big Star. Oh, and then spent a month in Ibiza with a bunch of Spiritualized and Air CDs.
Miles from civilisation? Well, while their music is a weird, if oddly topical, mix of the old and the new (Tame Impala's music is the most modern old music I've ever heard), Innerspeaker's cover is about as zeitgeisty as possible, looking not a little like Arcade Fire's The Suburbs.
Self-awareness in excelsis.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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