Few earthly things could be equal to the task of making Kevin Parker appear even more out-of-this-world and elemental than he does on any given Wednesday, but The Wave House and the aquabomb blues of the Indian Ocean managed to do just that Wednesday night, April 21st, as Tame Impala marked the 10th anniversary of the release of their wildly formative debut, InnerSpeaker (QRO review), with an enchanting front-to-back livestream on premium digital live platform Moment House that did so much more than appease the specter. Suspended high above Injidup Beach in Yallingup, Western Australia, at The Wave House Studio, Parker was angelically lit from behind by the setting sun with its Push-Pop oranges, and seemingly from within by his own spiritual absorption of the moment, exuding such synergy with both his bandmates and the scintillating skyscape that it was difficult to say where one left off and the other began.
He appeared to lure and bait the spectacular sunset flanking him on all sides by mostly ignoring it – a come-on tactic befitting the beatific boy that so boldly first laid out his near-debilitating shyness in sonic form when he recorded InnerSpeaker all those long-short years ago. He also seemed like nothing so much as a dendrologist of the marmolated trunks of clouds behind him, all of which resembled streaky, sub-Saharan trees – and looked exactly like the ones on the InnerSpeaker album cover! Did you paint those there before everyone arrived, Mr. Parker? One had to marvel and wonder at such an obvious cosmic sign.
Joined by sterling original Tame Impala members Jay Watson, Dominic Simper (also of Bambi), and Julien Barbagallo, Parker fairly glowed in the fiddleback character emanating from every angle and corner of Wave House’s amber ambiance. It was immediately clear why this location was a psychal necessity for him to write and record this incredibly honest album: it was the sky-surf sanctuary he needed in order to hear himself. The whole place looked like where you’d imagine hobbit fishermen might live, if they were also psychedelic genre-bending rock stars with Balearic tastes. In a word: dazzling.
This performance was every gearhead and guitarist’s naughtiest dream, with funky Hagstroms, the primordial Stratocaster, and a super fuzzed-out Les Paul all making star appearances. Speckled light routinely flooded in and glanced off the Mother-of-Pearl inlay of Watson’s bass, matching it perfectly in both color and dimension. Barbagallo rocked in front of a large swath of riverstone that acted in great favor to the power and timbre of his rhizomatic rhythms. Every musician here was intuitive, natural, and exceptional. Not a word needed speaking between them as the songs flowed into and from one another in the same manner as the aforementioned sun-dappled dreaminess.
It must be mentioned that Kevin Parker has never gotten nearly the credit he has earned for instinctive stringmanship. His chord-sense is entirely his own – always surprising, ever declamatory. “The Bold Arrow of Time,” anyone? That riff!!! It’s like a Magritte painting. A song that, it must also be noted, was in oceanic form last night above all. It sounded very like a surfing strike mission in Buncrana.
In artistically confronting the Joro spiders of his own anxiety, Parker has completed the master feat of denying the long con in the terminal irony wreathing so much of modern music. Such is Tame Impala’s emotional currency with its lack-of-artifice-appreciating audience that the band has become an eponym of sorts for musical manifestation – a living bastion for the symbiotic relationship of outcry to outcome. The liberated eudemonia these gentlemen expedite for their ardent and steadfast fans is a sight to behold, in and of itself.
“Alter Ego” had courageous fans sharing return-from-suicide stories in the chat during this stream. That song is that good (life-saving good), and even more so in this sublime setting – so much bedrock aggression, but smoothed with moon gel. Avid listeners and viewers at this stage will feel as if they are having the one-on-one of their lives with the Impala boys here. What to do, “When the one from my dream is sitting right next to me?,” digitally at least.
There is no reason or sense in attempting to label “highlights” in this impeccable show for two rangy reasons. The first, that every tune is a part and parcel of the next; they are less instances of individual song and more iridescent interpolations inside and of one another. The second, InnerSpeaker is an album with zero filler. Every song could have been a radio single and there are no skips. Your favorite will only be the one that speaks your soul-truth best in a given moment, and will likely change as imperceptibly as the full rotation Tame Impala gives the InnerSpeaker track list here.
“Lucidity” was a delirious, curly-wurly thrum, reminding everyone how easily this band can still narcotize your noisiest self-doubts. You’ll know where it goes but you won’t know how it got there. “Solitude Is Bliss” stood there deftly splayed in egret colors, housing what is arguably the album’s most famous and ethos-defining lyric: “You will never come close to how I feel.” You will certainly never come close to feeling anything more musically redemptive than watching Parker sing that line against a windowful of purpling Australian sky.
The fully strat-strumental “Jeremy’s Storm,” without the help of a single lyric, was the vox populi of every star-ambling night you ever spent out of doors. “Expectation” exceeded any that you have, and takes no toll but your whole heart. “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds,” with its sandy wander, hearkened to another great Australian musician’s hallucinogenic ballad: the immortal Men At Work’s “Down By the Sea”. Colin Hay has very cheekily attributed the origins of his tune to the creative concourses of Sumatran Tripping Grass, which is how Parker’s composition feels. The very best harmonic body high.
Speaking of that infamous Tame Impala tripcode that we all like to rent rooms in, several songs were filmed with the slow-circling squares of the trueborn hippie visionary, a veritable “drug lens” where your eyes got to meet up and Ecstasy-hug your ears for what they were experiencing. “I Don’t Really Mind” turned the lights on at the party, but with its famous robot-toy break and synth stairwell to your inner basement vibes, you couldn’t even be mad at it.
Ten years on, there is still so much to mine in InnerSpeaker. Little idiosyncrasies of sound that appear at the toe of your aural boot like tiny passport photos of striking aristocrats who also happen to be quizzically wearing septum rings. One can find oneself turning around in even the title in new ways at this reflective juncture: ‘Inner-speaker,’ as in one’s unseen (and perhaps quavering) true voice. Inner speaker, as in an amplifier for your soul. Parker now owns the pelagic Wave House, where not just the J-Award winning/ARIA nominated InnerSpeaker got born, but sections of 2015’s Currents came to life as well – and that fact lent a layer of heart-stopping elegance and nostalgia to this ceremonial event that paired extremely well with Parker’s own public admission that the whole process of looking back like this was far more moving for him than he initially thought it would be.
There’s an unavoidably splendiferous swan analogy to be made here and we’re going to make it. Western Australia’s state bird is the swan. InnerSpeaker was and remains Kevin Parker’s brave foray into the ugliest duckling parts of the ego’s home address. When he got signed for this record, he was so of the communal Perth sound-scene that had forged him that he felt the need to fib to his original label, saying that Tame Impala was a band rather than a solo project. Parker has said that he felt at the time like it was “wrong” for a solo act to be the biggest export from that gregarious, band-centric atmosphere.
Having fledged now, with vigor and in full, Parker has come to symbolize to the musical globe, including and especially Perth, all of the integrity and positive attributes of the inclusive gig-society that made him, much as that swan does in animal form for his mythic home. Yet, even draped in the glory of his shimmering swan plumage now, and with a whimsical wingspan that continues to extend with each new release and ingenious collaboration, he has not lost a morsel of the artistic purity and anomic difference that made him so outstanding ten years ago. To his endless honor, you still couldn’t get a self-aggrandizing word out of Parker with a Bradley and a tow cable, and he is still performing his flaws and insecurities with total transparency and relatability.
Still a barefoot bodhi, Kevin Parker looked for all the shire like he was performing in and for the clouds during this anniversary concert – an incredible metaphor for the much-deserved skyward ascension he has enjoyed at the hands of this indelible record in continuous celebration this week. There are no swan songs in sight for Tame Impala’s iconicaly introverted InnerSpeaker.