Midway through “Nothing That Has Happened So Far,” a bulldozer of sublime psychedelia on Tame Impala’s sophomore LP, a mysterious voice emerges from the swirl: “You’re thinking about everything, aren’t you?” it asks, bathed in fuzz, as drums tumble wildly and electric guitars shiver with flange. “I know it’s crazy—just don’t think of it like that / Nothing has to mean anything.”
Band mastermind Kevin Parker has hyped Lonerism as a more focused, linear album than their breakout debut, 2010’s Innerspeaker, referencing the new songs’ narrative flow and emotive core. But lyrics were never—and still aren’t—the point of this Australian quintet’s vintage, effects-drenched stranglehold. Nothing has to mean anything, indeed.
Plus, Parker basically said all he needed to say back on Innerspeaker’s “Solitude is Bliss”: “There’s a party in my head / and no one is invited.” While Lonerism does feel a bit more expansive, utilizing even more of mixer Dave Fridmann’s fancy effects pedals and studio wizardry, it uses those tools to delve even further inward. At times, the sonic overload tip-toes past trippy-ness into bloated indulgence: “Keep on Lying” squanders its British Invasion spy-theme groove, culminating in a buzz of pointless vocal samples, all the instruments bleeding together into mush. The otherwise magnificent “Mind Mischief” is so in love with its own effects, it drowns its soulful drum fills and Lennon-esque harmonies in the most comically large flanger explosion in recording history. On the flip-side, when Parker cuts out the clatter entirely on “Elephant,” the results are more troubling: That track’s bluesy, one-chord chug feels like a stale “Revolution” nostalgia trip—that is, until it’s rescued by Parker’s paint-peeling guitar solo.
Everywhere else, Lonerism expertly balances heady textures with effortless melodicism. “Apocalypse Dreams” is a capital-E Epic, a modern psychedelic odyssey that grows catchier and stranger the longer it plays; “Be Above It” builds from a chanted vocal loop and primal drum pulse into a carnival of giddy hooks and flange. The show-stopping “Music to Walk Home By” sounds like The Flaming Lips re-scoring Magical Mystery Tour, stoned out of their gourds. Saying nothing rarely sounds this profound.