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Bad Review Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

March 1, 2020

The main reason I write this blog is to review albums to help me appreciate the music I like even more.  Trying to figure out why I like something deepens my understanding of that thing.  A bonus is when someone trusts my opinion enough to actually listen to something they might not have otherwise tried.

I started writing this blog in the fall of 2011 and I can’t think of a post that was a “bad review.”  My theory has been that I don’t want to waste my energy on something I don’t like or shine a light on something I don’t think is worthy of attention.  But I think I need to reconsider that.

I was recently listening to an episode of the New York Times Popcast (check out the pod at about the 42-minute mark) and was hooked by a conversation between NYT’s pop critics Jon Pareles (JP) and Jon Caramanica (JC).  They were answering a listener’s request for advice on how to be a pop critic and they shared some great insights:

  • There is a difference between an enthusiast and a critic.  An enthusiast, per JP, is someone who jumps up and down and points at something they care about.  A critic is not just pointing out what they like, they are, per JC, trying to tell the story of the artist/album/record/performance. They are trying to give it context (that is, where does it fit in the broader context of pop music), trying to figure out if it hits you on a primal level or an intellectual level, wondering how people will respond to it.  Determining what kind of audience is the music trying to attract.
  • A critic can really dislike something but can understand it in a broader context. If you want to learn to be a critic, you need to write about something you hate.  Figure out why it works for some, but not you.  Who it is speaking to, why you think it is pernicious or lame, why it seems cliched or last year’s trick (JP).

In light of that conversation and my desire to be more than a mere enthusiast, I present to you my first bad review.

It took me a while to think of an album to give a bad review. I wanted it to be something current and something that had some cultural relevance. I heard all the hype about Tame Impala’s 2015 album Currents and tried several times to catch the wave. It had the right label to catch my attention: neo-psychedelic pop. But it failed to catch my interest.  It was clearly catnip for critics, but I was not the right animal. So I thought I would try again with The Slow Rush. I gave it a listen and Bingo!

My short review is The Slow Rush is vapid. I will try to elaborate.

The music is not offensive or annoying, it is just not engaging. It shimmers and it sparkles. It reminds me of a generic teen exploitation movie: B actors are slow dancing under a disco ball at a high school dance – a tired image.  If you were flipping channels you wouldn’t stop for this movie, you would keep flipping. I was listening to the album in the car and I was not sure if a song was on repeat or not – the album is monotonous drivel.

I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t leave an impression. I listened to it at least five times and I can’t recall a single song. If you played me a cut I am not sure I would even find it familiar, let alone identify the band.

Just out of curiosity I went over to Pitchfork to see what they think. They gave it a great score – an 8.0.  WTF?  What am I missing?  So I read Jillian Mapes’ review and there was nothing she said that made me question my opinion. In fact, she validated my thoughts:

“The repetition of phrases pairs well with the dubby, trance-like aspects of the music. Think of it as psychedelia for people with meditation apps and vape pens: Instead of opening your mind, you’re just trying to silence it.”

I guess I am looking for music to excite my mind, not tame it. I like art on my walls, not wallpaper. The best I can say about Tame Impala is that it’s neutral musical wallpaper.


From → Music Reviews

  1. jprobichaud permalink

    I don’t disagree. Everyone seems to love this album but I kind of feel like they’ve just been getting more and more pedestrian with each album…

    • I am sure there are albums that I love that others don’t get. Taste is hard to quantify.

      • jprobichaud permalink

        I know you’re right. But sometimes, when I listen to albums like this and hear the universal acclaim, I wonder what I’m missing.

  2. Fascinating. I really like the first two Tame Impala albums, but Currents left me becalmed. Haven’t even bothered with the new one, and probably won’t.
    Like you, I have avoided negative reviews. Any album is better than anything I could produce, so who am I to judge? Trying to find what makes the music ‘tick’ is always a good approach, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Thank goodness there are lots of music reviewers out there.

  3. Unfamiliar with this music.
    One of the reasons I stay tuned to your station is because like Bruce (above) you stay away from the neg reviews. ” I don’t hate it, just doesn’t leave an impression” seems like a pretty fair feel for something. You have a pretty high batting average with me. Lots of common ground , you’ve steered me to some great new music (Kamasi) and there have been a few that I would borrow your quote to describe my feel.
    Since I’ve started this blog thing I have found some great new music and now have a bunch of people that I trust when they like something. If there’s one thing I need ,it’s more music. Just ask my Gal.

    • Seeing Kamasi live in St Paul MN tomorrow night.

      • Oh man, hows that for timing. My youngest son is a big fan also. Enjoy the show. Get a t shirt if you have an extra 100 toad-skins.
        Back to your take. There’s a blogger, Casual But Smart , who is going through the 100 best albums and films according to, I forget who. Anyways he seems to be young and is doing his own research. Just his honest opinion. I don’t know how much he’s been influenced by popular thought but he certainly makes up his own mind. He’s had a different opinion on a few of the albums and films i really dig. Hasnt changed my mind but I like his style.

      • Will check Casual But Smart.

  4. I gave up after the first LP, gave the second one away to my daughter. I find them competent but not very inspired, I guess.

  5. I guess we will be getting a Kamasi update?

    • I guess I owe my public that. But I think I will be too lazy to do that. I have some photos on my catchgroove Instagram account. Long and short it was a good show, but kind of a stuffy venue. Previously I have seen him in rock clubs and this is the theater where Prairie Home Companion used to be. Kamasi is more fun in a boisterous club. His band is top notch. Live shows are much more raw and aggressive than albums. I wish he would do a live album to capture this.

      • Sounds great Catch. Some venues suit better than others. A live album would be cool. I like the ‘more raw and aggressive” thing.

  6. Paul Barnes permalink

    This is such an interesting review as I had the complete opposite reaction when I wrote mine. However, I do agree with the fact tracks can blend together due to their length and similar techniques. Music truly is subjective and this is an excellent example of that,

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