Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Show review: Tame Impala at Lincoln Hall, 5/3

Posted by Conor O’Hagan

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. I disagree. Look at Wolfmother. Instead, let’s try reinvention. And Tame Impala.

Tame Impala are a psychedelic hypno-groove rock band from Australia. They also claim to be a “movement in Orion's nebula and the slime from a snail journeying across a footpath.” That I can not vouch for, but the psychedelic rock I absolutely can. I caught the band performing their old-school revival at Lincoln Hall last Tuesday.

Building from the solo recordings of Kevin Parker (before he found his bandmates to back him up), Tame Impala’s debut album Innerspeak seems to be exactly that – the imaginative wanderings and close, personal thoughts of the frontman. His vocals are impressively controlled, swimming in a Lennon-esque stream and always controlled and hitting the mark. And while the musicianship holds a hefty '70s influence, the performance remained organic and relevant in a modern soundscape.

The slick transitions from song to song helped to keep the set fluid, and they displayed a shape-shifting green graphic, à la '90s MS Windows screensavers, to help entertain and transfix the audience.

"Jeremy’s Storm" was the most modern, with a riff that almost fit into a dark closet that Fleet Foxes can’t quite seem to open. Their songs rarely explode, but often climb confidently to a commanding plateau. They even managed a crisp cover of Massive Attack’s "Angel" that fit perfectly into the set, matching it with their effects-heavy sound.

Vocal harmonies, though disappointingly rare, were right on the mark, with drummer Jay Watson making a nice impact on some tracks. A friend of mine suggested maybe a “cool bass chick” could enhance the harmonic possibilities, and I could not disagree with him.

The great, but rigid sound Tame Impala created did tire, not least with a final song that carried on for 15 minutes, to my estimation. Perhaps if this reviewer were to be under some psychedelic influence, this would not have been a factor.

All in all, however, the task of reviving the psychedelic days of old has been undertaken by a worthy group. This is musicians’ music. This is for smoke-filled basements, good friends and red-eye’d “whoas." And maybe, who knows, maybe even some parents out there will no longer think their children listen to awful, vulgar noise. This is a real modern twist on the old-school psychedelic groove. Y’dig?

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