Tame Impala are a psychedelic rock quartet from Perth, Western Australia. The first word is the appropriate one here: Tame Impala's much-praised debut, Innerspeaker, sounds like a stilted mixtape of the brazen and simply better Swedish band Dungen.
But late last spring, when Innerspeaker began to arrive on domestic record shelves via Modular, the same label that made Wolfmother and Cut Copy famous, a handful of prominent critics didn't mention Dungen at all while extolling Tame Impala. The Australians were instead handled as a fresh new import, irrespective of the fact that less than six years earlier, Dungen received the same treatment for making the same sounds that much more interesting.
Of course, bands sound like each other all the time, and writing about music shouldn't mean trotting out a list of recommended-if-you-like suggestions. Indeed, Dungen and Tame Impala likely grew up with some of the same gnarly rock records and arrived with similar interests separately. But here's the thing: Tame Impala, who cite Dungen as an influence on their official MySpace page, sound exactly like a more moderate Dungen. If you overlook Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker's English and concentrate on the way he floats, bends and twists his words, it's sometimes impossible to tell the difference.
But this isn't a cry of plagiarism. Rather, in this case, Dungen feel like the forgotten quantity, the still-vital veterans who were overlooked simply because they hadn't released new music since 2008's concision-driven 4. Essentially, music criticism's fascination with young blood led to the lesser band getting an enthusiastic nod.
During the past decade, music blogs accelerated the speed of the buzz-and-backlash cycle. That is, people found out about and made decisions about bands much more quickly than they had in the past. Suddenly, many of the main avenues for learning about music were instantly updatable, and, as such, were always on the prowl to laud some hot new property first. When faced with the decision of following up, other websites had to say something — to accept or to reject, to concede that they'd heard it elsewhere first or to pan it outright. In this system, a band could practically go from being the world's greatest next rock act to a complete joke in a matter of months — weeks, even. Where, for instance, have all the Black Kids gone? If you don't get that joke, it's because no one's thought about that former mountain of buzz in approximately a year.
Social media sites haven't done this cycle any favors of mediation. Rather, Twitter and Facebook have turned panning or praising things into a series of mindless, reductive quips and chortles. In the morning, when your day job starts, a new viral hopeful — consider the recent MP3 of Justin Bieber slowed to a glacial pace — stands a decent chance of being the most divisive thing on the Internet by the time you head home to roost. When we're forced to state our decisions so quickly and cleverly, our opinions have to be shaped instantaneously. That Dungen's cerebral psychedelia got lost in that shuffle is more disappointing than surprising.
In the end, though, this cycle of instant adoration and inevitable distraction will likely play out in Dungen's favor. During the past 10 years, co-architects Gustav Ejstes and Reine Fiske have built an expansive discography that ranges from surging rock anthems (see "Festival," from the popular breakthrough Ta Det Lungt) to phosphorescent outbound explorations (check "Mon Amour," from their slow-coming follow-up, 2007's Tio Bitar). Their forthcoming Skit I Allt is a perfectly tempered record that strikes the balance between pop charms and spacey trips. That is, it's a mature, developed and well-defined LP, arriving defiantly at a time when the lack thereof seems to be in terrible vogue.
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