How Do You Make Music When The World Really Is Ending?

Tame Impala’s latest album is a record for the climate change era.

Gonzales/Tord Litleskare/Avalon/Zuma

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

The cover of The Slow Rush—the latest album from Tame Impala, Kevin Parker’s one-man-band from Perth, Australia—looks like the old red moon desert Windows desktop wallpaper invading an uninhabited house.

Maybe that association is an accident. But I find it fitting that a wisp of memory common to anyone who used a PC in 2000 mingles on the album cover with a scene of the natural overtaking the barriers of civilization—and nearly perfect that through the window in the corner the scene of destruction repeats infinitely. 

The Slow Rush is one of the first albums that feels like listening to how we live in the age of climate catastrophe.

Parker offers a synth-driven, reverb-heavy meditation on time in an era where our past is catching up with us. He conquered radio waves worldwide five years ago with his neo-psychedelic album Currents. It featured a vortex cutting forward on the cover, implying a focus on the individual charging toward a new world. Now, here we are: the new world is broken.

Parker wonders what to do with himself. The first verse of the first song on the album, “One More Year,” asks, “Do you remember we were standing here a year ago?” The repetition becomes mundane and childish: “We’re on a rollercoaster stuck on its loop-de-loop.”

Throughout The Slow Rush runs the surety that climate change will alter our perception of the arc of our lives, that a new world will dismantle the regenerative comfort of cyclical time, that we’re now on a linear path that can only result in doom. Yet it’s a bouncy record, like a moment of laughter in spite of the coming hellscape.

As the album progresses, Parker insists that the cyclicality must end—and that climate change will end it. On the second track, “Instant Destiny,” Parker ponders making “something permanent,” like a home in Miami or a tattooed name on his arm. But we know that Miami will drown beneath rising tides, that tattoos are still attached to flesh. The theme of the destruction of both body and planet becomes obvious on “Tomorrow’s Dust”: “Sympathy for the fauna / Fragile life in the sauna / In the sea getting warmer / Endlessly ’round the corner.”

The seasons we once trusted have now become subdued. Weather patterns blend like the lazy synths that unify the 12 tracks on The Slow Rush. “Something doesn’t feel right,” Parker sings on “It Might Be Time.” “There I go, blame it on the weather.”

Our plans for the future become tenuous. Tame Impala, no longer the upbeat, Beatles-esque radio fodder of yesterday, has changed with the times.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.