Ever find yourself walking home at around 2am after leaving a party that you either embarrassed yourself at or didn’t fit in with? Apparently it’s not just me; Lonerism opens with what sounds like someone doing just that. You hear distant footsteps and someone starts whispering a breathy mantra of “gotta be above it gotta be above it” in time, while the rolling tom-toms and guitars slowly inflate around it. That’s right, Tame Impala’s second LP is themed around social anxiety and inadequacy so much that it’s very nearly a concept album (right down to the cover which shows a large group of people sunning themselves in Paris’s Luxemberg Gardens, separated from the photographer by thick iron bars), but if you think that it’s going to be a trudging miserable listen, you’re wrong.
Despite being likeable from the get-go, ‘Lonerism’ reveals itself slowly, with pop hooks becoming more evident the more you listen. While you work them out, however, the sheer sound of the record is wonderful. Take ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, whose guitars and synths seem to fizz and foam out of the speakers, or ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ which sounds like a lost collaboration between The Turtles and DJ Shadow. While Tame Impala’s debut, ‘Innerspeaker’ was recorded in a beach house in their native Australia, ‘Lonerism’ was literally recorded all over the world, mostly by band leader Kevin Parker. He took a tape recorder with him everywhere and so could record takes as he went – one of the vocal tracks was recorded on a plane from Singapore to London – giving the record a roughly sewn-together feel.
There aren’t really any single candidates on here, but as a full piece of work, in all its outcasty ponderings and Technicolor splashes, ‘Lonerism’ is one of the best psychedelic pop albums of recent years. Buried throughout the record, you can hear recordings of people talking and laughing and generally having a good time, and while this record sounds like it can’t wait to run away from scenarios such as these, it sounds so immersive, fresh and fascinating that a party invitation would seem unwelcome. Cum on feel the lonerism. Joe Hill