Always writing and creating, he began penning the Currents tunes as soon as Lonerism wrapped, but it took some years for the final products to take shape. Meeting like-minded creatives across the board, seeing how they sampled and covered his music in their own styles, and not least his relationship with Ronson pushed Parker to make his most lauded album, albeit the biggest sonic leap from Innerspeak’s psychedelic fuzz.
Parker told two interviewers he was inspired by to make the record one night while listening to the Bee Gee‘s “Stayin Alive” while on cocaine and mushrooms. He also performed in a “space disco band” called AAA Aardvark Getdown Services for a brief stint between, which perhaps informed the synth-heavy, groove-forward sounds of Currents. He wrote, recorded, produced and mixed the entire album himself, a first for the solo artist. It was perhaps his most obsessive work to date, consuming his entire life from waking to the wee hours of dawn. After it’s release, Parker told Spin “the only rule was to make an attempt to abandon the rules that I’ve set up in the past.”
The mad masterpiece sees guitars fade in the distance, supporting players for the sci-fi synths that color the record’s electropop tracks. Rhythmically, it plays heavily into classic R&B motifs, especially on “Let It Happen” the honey-drip vocals of “Let it Happen” and the Motown-esque honey drip of ‘Cause I’m A Man.” The production is much cleaner, especially on the vocals, which Parker wanted to highlight having become prouder of his autobiographical lyrical style.
Of course, all of this was a huge transition from his previous work, and the theme of transformation covers the album. The artwork shows a linear plane upset by the passage of a silver ball that leaves ripples in its wake. There are hints of a struggle and self-doubt, particularly on “Disciples” which could be seen as a hypothetical conversation between Tame Impala and his fans who might detest his new sound. Mostly, though, the artist sings himself into his new role via the self-affirmations of “Let It Happen,” “The Moment,” “Yes I’m Changing” and “Reality in Motion.”
It must also be said that Currents is often read as a breakup album. Parker left his longtime girlfriend, herself an indie rocker artist, and some of the tunes definitely tell that story from the perspective of the one who’s leaving, “Eventually” most of all, while “Love/Paranoia” and “The Less I Know The Better” sing of infidelity. Parker denies the entire album is about the end of that relationship, and while love could be at the heart of the songs, the personal transformation of an artist at large does seem the driving factor.
The album ends with “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” a lovely tune that captures the hardest truth at the end of metamorphosis. We change our colors and learn our lessons throughout our lives, and yet, when we’re alone in our rooms once more, we find the same patterns still drive the voice in our heads. It’s a very relatable song, made even more accessible by a stunning cover by R&B pop icon Rihanna. Parker said her version seemed to give the song it’s honorable peak, finding a home with an R&B artist the likes of which inspired the album from the beginning.
Currents became Tame Impala’s most influential and commercially-successful album, proving that an indie alt darling can become a disco lover and survive to tell the tale. His music has continued to see love across genres. He recently worked with rapper Theophilus London on a collaborative project, received writing credits on Kanye West‘s “Violent Crimes” and helped produce Travis Scott‘s song “Skeletons” from his critically-acclaimed album Astroworld. Parker performed the song with Scott live on SNL, flanked by fellow guitar icon John Mayer.
Most recently, Parker released two new songs, Patience and Borderline, and he confirmed a new album is to come in 2020. The world waits to see what new frontiers Tame Impala will wander, but in the new borderless world he’s helped create, anything is possible.