Ten years of Lonerism: Revisiting Tame Impala’s Bombastically Psychedelic Sophomore

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Ten years of Lonerism: Revisiting Tame Impala’s Bombastically Psychedelic Sophomore

Lonerism Tame Impala
Words by Andy-Lloyd-Russell

From the first whispers of “Be Above It” to the titanic crunch of that first drum break fade in, you can only surrender and become entrenched in 'Lonerism'.

First of all, full disclosure. This Tame Impala album had an enormous influence on me when it first came out (and still does), being played repeatedly on the turntable –  this record is, indeed, iconic and monolithic in every sense of the word. 

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

In a sense, a bit of a classic sophomore record, Lonerism lends gentle hints to its predecessor Innerspeaker, which had been released two years prior, but also, proved to be a giant sonic step forward in its own right. Unashamedly confident, unapologetically bold and providing a deeper glimpse into the explorative nature of Kevin Parker’s production prowess – bringing with it new ideas and sonic exploration – Lonerism was a masterpiece birthed within the confines of a rather modest bedroom studio.  

Synth Galore 

What was immediately apparent in Lonerism, was how encapsulated it was by the pulsating, arpeggio laden, oscillating synthesisers – quite the departure from the guitar driven Tame Impala songs of Innerspeaker. 

Having purchased a couple of old synths after making his first album as “a bit of fun”, wanting to write these “sugary pop songs”, it turns out these new synth-driven tracks were destined to make Tame Impala psychedelic pop royalty. Tracks like “Endors Toi”, “Music To Walk Home By”, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Can Control” to name but a few, enjoy the succulent ear candy that only vintage synths (in this case, the Roland Juno 106 and Sequential Circuits Pro One) can enjoy. All those tuning imperfections, rich pitch modulation, pulse and dimension made for for a totally new sonic landscape that Lonerism by Tame Impala fell into deeply.  

Serving the Song

What’s always been impressive about Kevin Parker’s song writing, arrangements and production style, is his ability for each individual part to truly serve the song, effortlessly evoking the emotion woven within.

Never one to endlessly wail on self-indulgent guitar solos, or cut sick on some Moon or Bonzo-esque drum solo, instead, Lonerism serves up a wealth of immaculately crafted songs, all be it with Tame Impala’s distinct sun-drenched psychedelia washed all over. 

Throughout the album the drum parts are commanding and bombastic, yet have their pocket within the mix, never becoming overwhelming (credit to Dave Friddman’s mixing wizardry has to be paid here). With such movement and groove, one cannot help but nod their head – feel for days. With this pared with with meticulously crafted bass lines with that intrinsic plunk of a Hofner bass, Parker was somehow able to effortlessly morph numerous sensibilities into his unique blend of production – a stroke of genius and one that undoubtedly inspired the likes of Perth’s own Pond, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Temples and Unknown Mortal Orchestra to name a few throughout the 2010’s. 

For the Love of Flange

Whilst Innerspeaker certainly enjoyed a healthy dose of phaser effected guitars, Lonerism seemed to graduate to the flanger. Not only fondly found on numerous guitar lines, but often softening cymbal hits and at times being thrown over the entire mix, blasting it sideways almost outside of the speakers. 

This specific modulation effect not only contributes to Lonerism’s distinct wooziness and engrossing wash, but holds within it pivotal emotional junctions, captivating the listener further into its psychedelic well. About halfway through “Mind Mischief” there is unquestionably one of these emotional summits, when the whole mix is thrown into this slow swelling of flange, as the remainder of the track floats down stream to its eventual swirling end. Absolute bliss. 

Bedroom Production Wizardry

At the time of recording Lonerism, Kevin Parker’s recording setup had gone through several changes and upgrades from the days of Innerspeaker.

Gone was the Boss 16-track digital recorder, instead replaced with a version of Ableton Live and a Digidesign Procontrol (enjoying the flash and dance of Vegas mode of course). Along with some analogue outboard preamps, compressors and an RE-201 Space Echo for good measure, Kevin’s setup was still relatively modest (certainly by the bedroom studio criterions of today) but you know what they say – we are bound only by the limits of our imaginations. This couldn’t sing truer than for the masterful production and emotive captivation embedded into Lonerism – once again proving to the world that it doesn’t take innumerable producers, engineers, mixers and A&R bigwigs to make a ground-breaking record – just great songs and a creative mind to match. This unmistakable step up in his own productions not only helped pin the trajectory of Kevin’s own work, but also lead him to work with iconic artists such as Lady Gaga, The Gorillaz, Mark Ronson and many others. 

Now regularly selling out stadiums and being one of the most in demand festival acts on the planet, it’s astonishing that a little over ten years ago, it all started with Lonerism. Landing Tame Impala on the map of mainstream and bringing psychedelia back into vogue for a time, Kevin Parker has only continued to defy the odds. A true hero of the bedroom producer revolution. 

Revisit our retrospective on Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker here. For the latest updates on the band visit Tame Impala’s website.