Tame Impala’s Let It Happen: Dense Electronic Rock with Self-Indulgent Splendor

Psych-rock band Tame ImpalaPausing after a tour for their 2012 psych-rock album, Lonerism, that spanned three years, but before a series of scheduled summer festival gigs, the Australian indie-rock group released a free single called “Let It Happen” on Tuesday. The song, which was announced on Twitter and posted on their website as a free download, is their first new one in three years. It begins loose and groovy, yet also tight and earworm-y. A steady drumbeat shapeshifts around some synths that reverberate with a brassy sheen. Then the vocals of frontman Kevin Parker come in, and he sounds wistfully, wearily reflective. His lovely falsetto is in tip-top shape, though, and it floats both above and underneath all the instrumentation. Even when he’s not singing (which, on this song, is often), his lyrics seem to hang around in the air, then dissolve into airy nothingness.

Parker’s instrumentation on “Let It Happen”, while danceable and limber, is far from airy. The electronic melody, propulsive beat, and the thick guitar line that comes in near the end form a dense, opulent wall of sound. This isn’t brand new territory for the sonically adventurous Parker, though it’s less obviously Beatles-y than past songs. Yet Parker has never been so eager to flaunt his collection of soundboard magic tricks. Here, the drums slowly mute, then return; the synth melody repeats in fits and starts; and a thick string section makes a cameo. All the knob-twiddling here feels a little too show-offy, more self-indulgent than artistically interesting. Did I mention the song is over seven minutes?

“Let It Happen” works best when it shows how much it is working to impress us the least. Skip to 6:15 for the track’s high point, when we’re given a brief pause, thus providing a short but necessary breath of fresh air, and then introduce to a gritty guitar part. I haven’t yet mentioned that I love Tame Impala and can’t wait for the album (to be released sometime this year) that this song precedes. For now, we’re left with “Let It Happen”, both a taste of what’s to come and a feast of musical flourishes. It’s capital-i Impressive, catchy, and engaging for much of it’s length. Even the song’s most overdone arrangements don’t unravel the entire track and, on a technical level, every second of this thing is faultless. But the fusion of 70’s-style breezy nonchalance with indie ambition the band previously touted is less now pronounced, and accompanied with some just-for-the-sake-of-it splendor.

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