By KEVIN L. JONES
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012
Better than: Sitting at home, getting wasted by yourself while listening to (mostly) Beatles songs.
Not a Tame Impala review goes by without using the word "psychedelic," despite the fact that the band is basically pop. There are a few Tame Impala riffs that would make Cream in 1967 jealous, but you're not going to hear anything at the level of a Hawkwind or an Edgar Broughton Band at a Tame Impala show. Expect more of a Black Foilage-era Olivia Tremor Control soundalike than anything like the traditional, fuzzed-out face-melting version of psych rock as made by guys like Steve Morgen.
Most of Tame Impala's songs travel firmly in the area of post-LSD Beach Boys/Beatles, when the songwriters were influenced by mind-altering drugs but still wrote radio-friendly pop songs (besides the more obvious experimentations put to tape). But that doesn't mean the band can't shred -- Tame Impala's 2008 self-titled EP is all the proof needed for that case.
After buying the first EP, I declined to buy the band's LPs Innerspeaker and Lonerism after hearing that they were more "electronic" and "dancey" from friends whose taste I trusted. What my friends declined to tell me was that they meant to describe a sound like Stereolab, and not something akin to DeadMau5. (One man's dance party is another person's dorm room.) The band makes use of a few insistent beats here and there, but full-on Skrillex it is not.
Last night at the Fillmore, it was both the dancey tracks and retro-rockers that got the kids moving. But during the more rhythmic numbers in particular, the entire crowd would pulsate, with tiny puffs of smoke popping out from across the audience. And if the tracks and illicit drugs didn't get you shaking your ass, the bass would get something jiggling -- it was loud enough to make Dr. Dre blush.
Which leads me to a very important question: do Australians from Perth have molasses in their blood? I don't think I've seen a band play such heavy, rocking music so lethargically in my 20 years of show-going history. Even the banter from singer/guitarist Kevin Parker was severely subdued -- for example, when he discussed how he had "only read about [the Filmore] in magazines, and now he was playing there," he could've easily just gone "Mmmm mm mmm mm" into the microphone at half volume.
Which is not to say that the band didn't kill it, because they did, and you could see that in the satisfied smiles on every face in the crowd. These guys deserve to be pop stars.
Personal bias: A year or two back I played the balls out of the first Tame Impala EP. It didn't leave my CD player for weeks.
Random detail: At the Fillmore, those in charge of the stage lighting will incorporate the chandeliers into the light show for the band, which basically like playing with the dimmer switch at home.
By the way: If you like Tame Impala's rockin' numbers, I highly suggest checking out Randy California's classic album Kapt. Kopter and the Twirly Birds. Listen to the first track, "Downer," and just try to tell me you don't love it.
Age is just a number: This was the first show that made me feel old (outside of the few shows I caught at 924 Gilman.) Sure, there were the pot-bellied, middle-aged record nerds that you see at every rock show in San Francisco, but there were plenty of college-aged kids too. Do the kids dig rock n' roll again? Or do they only like it when it's club-worthy?