Tame Impala: InnerSpeaker – 10th Anniversary Edition
A reissue celebrating the decennial of the modern classic record.
“We woke up one morning to record this song, Jeremy’s Storm. We were sort of doing guitar takes and stuff, while the weather outside was really picking up to the point that it was the most intense storm […]. The roof was leaking everywhere, all over the control room, pots and pans. The whole house was shattering, it was literally shaking.”
Blurry footage displays Kevin Parker casually sitting on a sofa and recalling one of the pivotal InnerSpeaker recording sessions. During the winter of 2009, Wave House, a beach hut and DIY studio facility based in Western Australia, became a natural habitat for the single-minded musician and members of Parker’s brainchild, Tame Impala. Despite the proximity of the Indian ocean and the burden of storms, everyone survived the blast. All the more, recorded in this turbulent environment, InnerSpeaker became one of the decade’s greatest records that defined the sound of contemporary psychedelia.
InnerSpeaker Memories, a short film released in the wake of Parker’s milestone album’s reissue, cuts the long story short. Yet, this retrospective documentary with a home video feel delivers the irresistible nature of the music, emerging in between obsessive recording and fun-poking conversations. Storm, indeed, defines the spirit of the album. Starting with the melancholy-driven It’s Not Meant to Be, the record accumulates the force which reaches its most tumultuous on Runway, Houses, City, Clouds.
Preceding the chart-sweeping Lonerism, Innerspeaker already revealed Parker’s passion for pop, both in its broad and narrow sense. One of the scenes from InnerSpeaker Memories shows the long-haired songwriter slicing parmesan and wiggling to the newly recorded Solitude Is Bliss. Ten years later he would be dancing in a similar fashion on the main stage of the Glastonbury festival. No cheese now.
Still, this would be far ahead in 2010. Released in May that year, the debut InnerSpeaker made an impression on the music industry. Coated in the sound nodding to the 60’s psychedelia, it communicates alienation in a contemporary sense. The album was praised with awards both in the band’s homeland and abroad. Packed with supplementary audio materials as well as a beautifully crafted booklet, the anniversary reissue augments the perception of a listener. The box contains four LPs – two presenting the re-mastered songs from the album, two more with remixes and additional recordings that were made during the sessions at Wave House.
Demos add a new dimension to the record, displaying the density of ideas in the air. A medley of fragments, bleeding one into another or glued together with technical sounds, e.g. click track and low buzz, create a Swedish progg texture akin to Dungen. Some of them are future-in-the-past references. Featuring fuzz-infused guitar, a piece that would later become the intro of Endors Toi, the second track on Lonerism, appears slightly heavier here.
Overall, these sketches echo with scans of work-in-progress materials displayed in the anniversary booklet. Those are notebook pages with a hand-written list of songs’ production titles and elaborate structure of some tracks. Still, the nerdy elements showing the laborious side of the recording co-exist with the joy of spontaneity. Occupying side B of the final vinyl, Wave House Live Jam is a fluid 18-minute improvisation that evokes the atmosphere of the Australian seaside. Switching between fuzz and delay, the trippy guitar of Parker shapes a free-flowing conversation with a bass line of Dom (Dominic) Simper and a drum pattern performed by Matthew C. Saville. To Parker, who describes himself in the liner notes as introverted and shy, the jam format has, indeed, been a sort of communication. In the documentary, he says: “I love things where other things communicate with each other but not through words. Jam is one of those. It can be anything. Like a convoy of ships. It is a communication between things without talking”.
With its multidimensional quality, this reissue is a treat for devoted fans of Tame Impala. While the first two parts of the box set are transparent, the third LP triggers questions. Presented there, instrumental versions of Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind and It’s Not Meant To Be differ from the original tracks in that they only lack their vocal tracks. Of course, even these minor changes give a new perspective to the songs. Hearing a kazoo in the chorus of In All Honesty (the working title of It’s Not Meant To Be) is impressive as it is always veiled by dense vocals on the album version. Such differences would however be notable only for someone with a keen ear for the band’s music.
Also, shifting between mainstream and DIY, the concept of the release feels slightly inconsistent. The massive box is released on Universal Music, which underlines the status of the band now. Yet, the booklet contains no liner notes from other writers than Kevin Parker. Moreover, it is created by the same people who were initially involved in the production of InnerSpeaker back in 2009. It is nonetheless soothing to revisit this great record in the reissue format celebrating its longevity. The storm of the past still echoes and reverberates through the years.
Tame Impala’s InnerSpeaker – 10th Anniversary Edition is available here.
All words by Irina Shtreis. More writing by Irina can be found in her author’s archive.