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Tame Impala Return to Deliver Seizure-Inducing Psychedelia

Originally published on KDHX.org

“Does anyone know what day of the week it is?” singer Kevin Parker asked the crowd. “That’s actually an honest question,” he clarified, pointing to his bandmate, laughing. It was a clear indication that his band, Tame Impala, has been moving so fast that time is simply not on their radar.

The Australian psych rockers returned to the Pageant last night, on course with their new album, “Currents,” to hit the public in July and see their tour conclude in the fall at Austin City Limits. Though it’s only their third album in five years, the band really knows how to keep things moving. Regardless if they aren’t sure which day it is.

Openers Kuroma are something of an enigma. Fronted by former MGMT guitarist Hank Sullivant, the mild-mannered quartet crafts sublime ditties with aplomb — breezy, dream pop that recalls the shift between the synths of the late ’80s and the Pixies-style indie rock that took over in the early 90s. Last night at the Pageant, the band’s version of the Breeders’ “Divine Hammer” was enough to illustrate that idea, though the cover may be just that — something to show fans where the band’s headspace truly resides. Though they showed a similar DNA to Tame Impala, they seemed more focused on crafting the most user-friendly song that they can muster.

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Fresh off the press with their third album, aptly named “Kuromarama,” the group wavered between emotional-fed indie rock and quirky rhythms designed to engage your head in a modest uptick. The semi-psyche element was there, but very sedated, glossed over by the penchant for catchy hooks that were as enjoyable as they were revelatory.

Shortly after, the stage was littered with guitar and sound techs, white lab coats and wild hair carefully placing strobelights along the edge of the floor, beneath stacks of vintage amplifiers. As the lights dimmed, the band took the stage with lead singer and guitarist Kevin Parker taking his place at the mic and launching into an introspective jam before kicking-off their first new single “Let It Happen.”

If you thought the majority of the show would be an exploration of the upcoming record, you’d be mistaken. The two-hour set was largely a retrospective of the band’s first two ground-breaking albums, with a handful of new singles that have already been released online. But that didn’t mean the show was without surprises.

The energy of their opener dissipated quickly and the jangly, opening salvo of “Endors Toi” took its place, followed by the drawl of a heavy synth by Dominic Simper, a melody that seemed to carry on indefinitely, before finally reaching Parker’s Lennon-inspired vocals. Curiously, the end of the song morphed into a slow-clap dance remix, where Parker vamped on his lyric, “Go to sleep, you’ll be fine.” The transition from psych-rock to psych-dance seemed an easy one for Tame Impala and recalled similar explorations by bands like My Morning Jacket.

For the expansive register of “Why Won’t They Talk To Me,” the band was more on point than the last time I saw them. As the albums are so heavily produced, it can be difficult to recreate that sound in person. Dual harmony is better than none, but the track is so unimaginably layered, it was ultimately disappointing not to experience that depth of sound in the flesh.

Another new single, “Eventually,” made a live debut and trekked into the same dance hemisphere as the other new singles, taking away some of the hard-rock back beat and supplementing it with groove-worthy dance. Lasers painted the back screen with radiant colors, spheres and polygons that seemed to shake harder the more distorted that sounds become.

“Are you guys ready?” Parker asked and the crowd wailed in response. “Not that you weren’t ready before.” He knew exactly what they wanted and heaved into the muzzled fuzz of “Elephant,” a surreal, kinetic riff in 8/6 time (if I counted correctly) that eventually dropped into an epic, seven-minute noise-jazz, deep-reggae space jam.

The galloping rhythm of “Gotta Be Above It” took over next, with bassist Cam Avery whispering the title over and over again as he let the fuzzy bass growl so low, it began to vibrate our shin-bones.

Before “Mind Mischief,” the band took five while Parker hooked his guitar into the laser machine to control the visuals. The light show behind him wiggled to the sustain, crept in circles on the screen to the vibration of Parker’s guitar strings. I began to see their sound as a living thing. Not something sentient or even intelligible, but akin to a microbe or a virus. Something so tiny, but with such immense power. Parker has proven himself at the helm of that type of songwriting.

The group closed the set on another stellar jam, “Apocalypse Dreams,” and said their goodbyes, but not before drummer Jay Watson delivered one of the most delicious, far-reaching fills, swinging the song back into action for a few measures — it was a drum fill to end all drum fills.

The crowd stood its ground, demanding more. “We’ve only got one more song, but you know we’ll be back. It doesn’t end here,” Parker assured them, leading into “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” a mid-tempo romp with all the right moving parts. It’s a tune slowly becoming an indie-rock standard, and the fans chimed-in with singing and hand claps, making it one of the great unifiers of the evening. By the time we left, even I had forgotten what day it was.

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