The eagerly-awaited follow-up to 2012’s breakthrough Lonerism throws something of a curve-ball. Kevin Parker’s recent alliances with Todd Rundgren and fellow Aussie psych-rockers Pond suggested that Currents might extend further his psychedelic excesses; but instead, it involves an unexpected move into electropop – albeit of a more textured, Seventies type, rather than brittle Eighties pop-candy.
Celestial synth-pads, resonant keyboard chordings, supple basslines and breathy harmonies bring to mind the 10cc of “I’m Not in Love”, and while copious application of phasing offers a link to Tame Impala’s psychedelic roots, the absence of guitar wig-outs may disappoint some fans.
The development is most overtly signalled in “Yes I’m Changing”, in which Parker’s musical transformation is couched in oceanic, enveloping waves of synth, harpsichord and traffic noise. He clearly still can’t resist endlessly layering sound upon sound, sometimes to the detriment of the music: “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” becomes a mousse of heavily-reverbed voices and keyboards, a cloud parting only occasionally to reveal an understated koto-like twang poking through in quieter moments.
As the album title suggests, change – the shifting currents linking past and future – is the overall conceptual theme, most revealingly broached in those songs dealing with romantic disillusion, such as “Eventually” and the clumsy apologia “’Cause I’m a Man”. The latter, the album’s first single, clothes evasive, quixotic and cowardly sentiments (“Saying sorry ain’t as good as saying why/ But it buys me a little more time”) in sleekly comforting synth textures and emollient melody; while “Eventually” broaches the impending break-up with more courage, if not exactly sympathy, Parker wishing he “could turn you back into a stranger” to spare a partner the pain. How convenient that would be – for him.
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