Photograph by Angela Stephenson
There have been few albums that have garnered the sort of acclaim that Tame Impala’s last has. It’s the kind of outpouring of praise usually reserved for deities and recently deceased royalty but to be fair, it is deserved. Lonerism is a lovely, melodic swirl of a record: Kevin Parker, Tame Impala’s lead singer and main songwriter, balancing the tricky demands of his psychedelic mistress – her beckoning fingers, hypnotic eyes and questionable critical faculties – with aplomb.
So. All good tonight? Well, no. Thinking about it, the other thing with psychedelia is perhaps it is better enjoyed on your own. In a room where you can lie down, stare at the ceiling and let it all wash over you. Or at the very least where you can spin around without anyone spilling beer on your dashiki. You certainly can’t do that tonight. This particular sloping corner of south London is packed. Personal space violatingly packed, so all you can really do ais stand upright, watch, and be left a little cold.
The restraint so admirably displayed on Lonerism is replaced by a certain sense of expansiveness that would have been fine, had the view changed much. But with Parker’s keening vocals somewhat buried under the rest of the instrumentation it merges into one amorphous mass. You occasionally get bursts of personality, the tribal roll of ‘Got To Be Above It’, the brief flash of ‘Lucy And The Sky With Diamonds’ that ‘Endors Toi’ provokes, but too often it just hangs in the air like so much incense smoke.
Uncomfortably, there are times when you realise this is but a silver cape away from being the sort of thing Yes would have proudly played for four and three quarter hours on a circular stage. It takes the heavy stomp of ‘Elephant’ to shake things up, but even that comes somewhat unstuck, breaking down in the midst of drum solos, Parker on his knees fiddling with pedals, and a has it, will-it, please-make-it series of false endings. Ok, nothing can change the fact that it is a song good enough to make you want to tear off all your clothes and paint the lyrics on your naked flesh, but it didn’t need the fiddling.
There are other amazing moments too. ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ soars in genuinely spine-tingling fashion and Parker’s general open-mouthed humbleness at the scale of the occasion was endearing, but as a whole the experience was disappointing. As the encore of ‘Half Full Glass Of Wine’, enters its seventh minute and what seems like its third time signature, we just want to tell them what we thought they already knew: forbearance should be the watchword.
And well, if they didn’t want such high expectations then they shouldn’t have made such a great album.