The Slow Rush is another genre-bending release from Tame Impala that, despite satisfying the senses with luscious and colourful sounds, rarely captivates to the fullest. Dreamy psychedelia takes centre stage, with very little shift in pace or tone. I’m hugely enamoured with the first handful of tracks, but gradually become numb to the music’s whimsical nature. It’s so, so goddamn smooth, almost to a fault. The novelty does wear off after a while. There’s a moment half-way through “Posthumous Forgiveness” where Kevin Parker’s songwriting takes a dramatic turn, with stabbing staccato synths and hallucinatory melodies transport the listener to a completely different dimension. It’s an epic highlight that is never replicated again during the entirety of the record.
The Slow Rush spends much of its hour-long running time floating around, content in its own alluring space, that it basically forgets about obtaining those magical musical moments. You can pick out some tremendous tracks (“Instant Destiny” being the pick of the bunch) but as an album it does fall slightly short. In fact, it rarely feels like a cohesive collection of songs. Rather, more of an extended mood that showcases the admittedly stellar talents of Parker and his band. It may seem unreasonable to chastise a record for failing to reach something it may never have tried to achieve in the first place, but I also think it’s fair to expect more than fanciful illustration when the talent is this good. I like The Slow Rush, and I don’t think it will do any harm to the esteemed reputation of Tame Impala. I just can’t think help but think there’s much more in the tank.7 10
Favourite tracks // Instant Destiny
I enjoyed the first 15 minutes of The Slow Rush as much as I’ve enjoyed any new release in the last couple of years. The production is luscious and the early tracks are fabulously funky, with “Instant Destiny” being especially good. The track’s synthesizers sound like a supernova sound cruise through the outer reaches of the galaxy. It’s the kind of thing you might expect to hear on the radio if you were dropped into The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – earnest, fun, and slightly frivolous. “Borderline” follows in kind, reaching pretty audacious levels of suaveness. Flutes are always a risky choice so credit where credit’s due when it works.
Sadly that’s as good as the album gets for me. The scenery is pleasant, but once you’ve gotten over the excitement of embarking everything feels like it’s on cruise control. The Slow Rush has a lot in common with Justice’s album Woman in that sense, though I think this has less staying power. The last 40 minutes or so merge into one big agreeable blur. It’s surreal how quickly the album blunts. There’s plenty for the audiophiles to enjoy, and the funkiness holds steady enough for the album to hold up as mood music, but beyond that there’s not much to hold on to. Not since Muse’s Drones have we heard such a concentrated dose of brilliance surrounded by such benign material.6 10
Favourite tracks // Instant Destiny
The dreamlike atmosphere of The Slow Rush will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Tame Impala’s previous two albums. Kevin Parker’s latest has all the hallmarks of what came before, and it pushes harder on his more avant garde sensibilities whilst riding a Daft Punk-esque, funk-oriented focus on melodic bass.
Ethereal, flat, and airy vocals, sustained synths, layered percussion, and freeform song structure are all par for the Tame Impala course, and when there’s enough going on to differentiate what’s on offer it works a treat. It’s rare to have such a consistent sense of place and mood over a full album without boredom setting in. Sadly, The Slow Rush doesn’t hit the sweet spot. It’s an easy album to simply call ‘nice,’ and it is. The album’s lovely, often beautiful, and there are plenty of occasions where it breaks through the general restraint and poise of the LSD-soaked production and kicks you in the chest with some excitement. “Instant Destiny”, “Posthumous Forgiveness”, and “Breathe Deeper” all have those moments, then for the remaining seven there’s only “It Might Be Time” to hold the fort.
Over my week with The Slow Rush I’ve been lamenting my own lack of patience as much as the album’s length for losing interest from the midway point, but I’d rather chalk it up to track sequencing. The set pieces come at a steady pace for the first act, and fizzle to nothing in the second. Yes it sounds serene, yes the composition can be brilliant, yes the arrangements are fantastic, but I feel like I’ve had my fun by the time “On Track” lulls me into a stupor. I might have felt differently if the earlier concentration of sharp pulses of energy were more evenly distributed over the hour.
There’s a lot to like and love about The Slow Rush, it’s just a shame that I want to love it more.7 10
Favourite tracks // One More Year