Tame Impala – “It Is Not Meant To Be”

Tame Impala’s debut LP Innerspeaker was one of the key records of Summer 2010 for me–and many others, I’m sure. Their earwormy, gauzy psychedelia was tailor-made for those days when the heat makes the horizon shimmer. But despite listening to it a great deal over the summer, I didn’t spent much time with it during the wintry months, and I recently started craving a return to the album.

How perfect, then, that my blind mp3 player (screen doesn’t work, but my “Play Random Album” button still allows me to listen to records front-to-back…I just don’t get to choose which one) landed on it as I got into bed last night. The lead-off track, “It Is Not Meant To Be,” had previously been one of my favorites from the album, but as I listened to it in bed last night, it knocked my goddamn socks off.

Specifically, there was an interplay between the music and the vocals that I had never appreciated before. After a fantastic, woozy instrumental intro, Kevin Parker’s eerily Lennon-esque vocals float in like a passing cloud and he sings as the music reforms around him:

I wanted her
I wanted her
But she doesn’t like the life that I lead,
she doesn’t like the life that I lead.
Doesn’t like sand stuck on her feet
or sitting around smoking weed.
I must seem more like a friend in need
and I boast that it is meant to be,
but in all honesty,
I don’t have a hope in hell.
I’m happy just to watch her move.

For one, I love these lyrics. They’re incredibly straightforward, and graceful in their simplicity, which is refreshing in an indie rock landscape crowded with lyrics that often feel heavy-handed (or, alternately, lazy) in their obtuseness. They also stand out among the other lyrics on the record, which serve their purpose but are typically little more than Love Generation signifiers to match the music, which also draws heavily on that era.

But it’s Parker’s delivery that really enchants me. When the verse starts out, there’s a dissonance between the stoner-ish detachment of his affect and the lovelorn lyrics. The blazed-out quality of his delivery (and the music) creates an emotional distance between the mood and the message. But when that big chord change hits as he sings “honesty,” he shifts into something like sublime acceptance, and the emotional distance makes sense. The “persona” of the lyrics (a musical term for the point of view–not quite a “character”–that a lyric speaks from) can’t get the girl, but in his druggy universe, just watching her move is enough to keep him transfixed from now until eternity.

From here on, the song should have you hooked, and it surfs away into that hazy horizon. Press play and close your eyes and see if you agree.

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~ by toren on June 13, 2011.

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