The limpid lysergic swirls and squalling fuzz-toned riffs that populate Tame Impala's debut clearly owe a hefty, heartfelt debt to the hazy churn of late-'60s/early-'70s psych rock, but the members of this Perth threesome are hardly strict revivalists. In comparison to their similarly inspired contemporaries, they chart a course somewhere between Dungen's lovingly meticulous replication of their chosen style and Malachai's deconstructive, electronically enabled pastiche of same, deftly skirting the potential for parodic excess that comes with either extreme. Balancing an obvious reverence for their sonic forebears with subtly contemporary production tweaks, they make straddling two disparate eras feel like the most comfortable, effortless thing in the world. And that sense of unforced, unpretentious ease is fundamental to what makes Innerspeaker so simply, viscerally pleasurable: there's so much that Tame Impala get so wonderfully right here -- a distinct but understated undercurrent of melody, a relaxed but ever-present sense of groove, a crystal crispness and deliberateness to the sound even when it's treated with a healthy dousing of buzz and reverb -- without seeming like they're trying at all hard. Despite a classic power trio configuration and relatively limited use of overdubbing, the album frequently feels so sonically massive, so thick with ringing guitars, walls of effects, and tremendous, reverberating drums, that it's hard to believe it's the work of a mere threesome. Kudos are perhaps in order to neo-psych mainstay Dave Fridmann, who mans the mixing boards here with a relish and restraint that helps make this one of the most tasteful (and tasty) records on his recent résumé. Credit frontman Kevin Parker's lazily drawled, remarkably Lennon-esque vocals, too, (frequently Leslie'd or otherwise processed, which helps) with giving the album an extra air of free-floating authenticity (while only occasionally giving up anything as specific and tangible as a substantially intelligible lyric). It's only infrequently that individual songs manage to stand out from the surrounding fluid, atmospheric haze -- typically when the band decides to leave its hooks a bit of space to breathe, as on the chunky, chugging closer "I Don't Really Mind" or the crisp, snakily phased guitar lick cementing the deliciously poppy "Solitude Is Bliss." But the dearth of standout tracks here hardly feels like an issue -- indeed, Innerspeaker coasts so beautifully on its blissful, billowing waves of sound that readily discernible hooks almost seem like gratuitous distractions.
by K. Ross Hoffman