tue 28/09/2021

Reissue CDs Weekly: Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker (2010➝2020) | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker (2010➝2020)

Reissue CDs Weekly: Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker (2010➝2020)

Box-set makeover of one of the last decade or so’s greatest albums

Tame Impala at the time of recording of 'InnerSpeaker'. Kevin Parker in the foregroundFiction

Heard now, InnerSpeaker sounds as it did when it was issued in 2010. Tame Impala’s debut album was crisp, fizzing; a pithy collection of psychedelic rock nuggets which made its case instantly. This was modern psychedelia, infused with a dash of Sweden’s Dungen, which still sounds fresh. Despite brushing the borders of freak-out territory, it was direct. Tuneful too. Fantastic.

Up to this point, the Perth-based Kevin Parker had used the name Tame Impala to release an EP and single, the second of which was recorded in 2009 at London’s prime garage rock set-up, Toe Rag Studios. Travelling there, as The White Stripes had, suggested Parker saw Tame Impala as for more than Australia, his home country. The pre-album records did well there, and InnerSpeaker did even better. A best-seller, it was garlanded with awards. Still, though, psych-rock was a niche genre. In time, there would be nothing niche about Tame Impala. The breakout became akin to that of The White Stripes.

Tame Impala InnerspeakerInnerSpeaker (20102020) has arrived. Despite hitting shops in 2021, it’s marketed as the “10th Anniversary Boxset”. What’s changed since 2010 is the context. Tame Impala are now huge on a world-wide basis. February 2020’s The Slow Rush, their last and fourth studio album, was Top Five in the US and the UK, and similarly successful across loads of other territories.

A four-album set with a slipcase, InnerSpeaker (20102020) packages each record in a 12-inch single style sleeve. There is also a nicely designed, image-dominated booklet including the lyrics, work-in-progress artwork and hand-written notes by Parker from the period – an album track had the working title of “Gary/Gazza Numan” (possibly “I Don't Really Mind”).

In the brief note he’s contributed to the new package’s book, Parker says nothing about where he felt his music sat around 2010, whether he sensed it could connect with listeners or if there were inklings of Tame Impala’s subsequent trajectory. However, he does say “I was going through some video footage that was shot at the time and place I was recording the album with Dom [Simper – bass guitarist and multi-instrumentalist]. Watching back, it really struck me how shy and awkward I was back then. I’m watching my 10 years’ younger self trying to have a conversation thinking ‘Come on man! Stop staring at your feet and twiddling your hands!’ Which is funny because listening back to the demos [included in this release] I get the opposite impression. I hear someone who is wide-eyed and ambitious, and confident…the contrast between my musical self and my social self back then is stark.” A track-by-track commentary would have been useful, as would text on the recording of the album and what came next.

Tame Impala Innerspeaker Wave House webThe first two albums in the set are as per the original release, with slightly less compressed sound than a first pressing. Album Three has the instrumental backing tracks of “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds” and “Expectations” on one side, and new remixes (foregrounding the chunkier elements of the instrumentation) of “Alter Ego” and “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds” on the other. No raison d'être is given for these remixes. The fourth album couples the single track “Demos” with what's titled “Wave House Live Jam” on its flip (the album was mostly recorded at a specially set up Western Australia facility – named Wave House as it overlooked the ocean, pictured left). This final album contains the only music on InnerSpeaker (20102020) which seeks to say something new.

“Demos” is 20-minutes, 37-seconds long. It collects song fragments and workouts, sequencing them into a form of cut-and-paste mega-mix. Listening is like experiencing a dial scanning across multiple radio stations, each playing  formative versions of bits of InnerSpeaker. “Wave House Live Jam” is an instrumental featuring Parker on guitar, Simper on bass and photographer Matthew Saville on drums. Recorded in July 2009, it’s initially formless with stabs of guitar and the odd arpeggio played over repetitive bass and drum patterns. At 05.19, it begins coalescing into something more interesting with an energised dynamic and, then, just over a minute later the pace picks up. It’s only at around the 13-minute mark that it fully takes off for a minute or so. Album Four is probably for committed completists only.

Overall, InnerSpeaker (20102020) feels shy of getting to grips with why this album is what it is, and why it hit so hard with buyers. A sense of it as integral to an onward path is lacking. InnerSpeaker is one of the last decade or so’s greatest albums and, however smart this package and welcome it as a reminder of the album's merit, Tame Impala’s outstanding debut album has not been given the context it deserves.

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