Oct 05, 2012 Web Exclusive
Warning: Listeners are encouraged to first experience Lonerism with 2010’s Innerspeaker stricken from the mind. Only after 10 listens may the two albums be soberly compared. Ignoring this advice may cause side effects ranging from unmerited disappointment to unfounded accusations of a bloated midsection. Please approach the record from one of the following angles:
1) Don’t look back two years—look back 39, and consider Todd Rundgren. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker cites 1973’s A Wizard, a True Star as a substantial influence on Lonerism. Indeed, the ’70s art rocker has already personally remixed Lonerism’s ’70s art rocker, “Elephant,” and Tame Impala has previously covered his own “International Feel.” Like Rundgren in ’73, Parker has a voracious ear, manically processing and spitting out all manner of influence, simply trying to manage his bursting (psychedelic red) fire hydrant of creativity and aim the hose at something cohesive: a record. Arrangements explode or implode, meticulous vocal melodies rub up against perverse sonic sensibilities, genres are hopped, and fidelity is determined by the pure haste of getting ideas down.
2) Speaking of getting down, take that title to heart and roll with it. If Innerspeaker was cool and detached, Parker’s musings here cut straight to his own misgivings, and maybe our universal aloneness. “Why Won’t They Talk to Me” is twisted ELO radio pop, sure, but it’s far from blissed-out, with lyrics like “I don’t need them and they don’t need me.” Or dig the admission of “I just don’t know where the hell I belong” on the stumbling “Mind Mischief.” Other titles say it all up front: “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” “Keep on Lying,” or the gorgeous, record-review-word-count-enhancing “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.”
In the end, maybe that same feeling of losing control, of isolation, also built Innerspeaker, and Parker’s catharsis here becomes, if you let it, just another delicious serving of all those menu favorites—loose, overcompressed Ringo drumbeats; decimated guitar fuzz tones; lilting and eerily Lennon-esque vocal melodies—all sprinkled with some novel additions (read: synthesizers and sadness) to draw you in even further.
Lonerism isn’t Innerspeaker—it’s too damned lonely. But it’s cut from the same cloth, finding deeper substance in the same ecstatic patchwork. We always want first albums to live forever, but our bliss (or plaintive enjoyment) lies squarely in the letting go.
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10