This one comes to us from none other than Asher Noble. FTB:

On July 16th, Australian rock band Tame Impala released their highly anticipated new album, Currents. I don’t claim to be a music critic, but I know when I hear music I like. The band released four singles off the record prior to its formal debut, which formed the soundtrack to spring for my friends and me. It’s hard to describe what was so good about these tracks, but they stuck, and we developed a somewhat cultish fandom for Tame Impala. The resulting excitement for the full-length release was new to me.

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The record did not disappoint. In fact, after a few listens, I noticed something surprising. Kevin Parker (Tame Impala’s mastermind) was not singing his typical lament of loneliness. The theme this time is change. Currents echoes the hopeless hope of mankind, and eventually arrives at the same devastating conclusion.

The timing has been fortuitous, given my experience this summer. Instead of spending another season at home in Virginia, I am living in a very small town in Bavaria, working in a flour mill that looks and feels fresh out of the 19th century. Life is simple here. I wake up, drink coffee, go to work, eat dinner, drink a tall beer with my host father, and go to sleep. Not the typical array of stresses and responsibilities I face on a daily basis at home. Naturally, I have a lot of free time – primarily used to fuel recent obsessions with David Lynch and David Foster Wallace, respectively, and of course now, Tame Impala.

218_zps4cf2270eI had a lot of hopes (and fears) for what this experience might bring. I was optimistic. When people would ask me how I felt about going abroad, my reply usually went something like this: “I’m a little nervous but really excited for a change of pace.” The truth is, the change I was looking for was really much deeper.

I couldn’t wait to leave the “real world” and escape to the middle of nowhere. I looked forward to changing some things in my life I wasn’t all that satisfied with. Bavaria was going to be a chance to break free from the Sin that hangs on my back in the States. I would be getting away from unhealthy relationships, excessive partying, and family strife. There would be no pressure to anxiously climb the social ladder or justify myself academically. Maybe I would finally even get in the routine of having a quiet time every morning. A fresh start, some would say. People actually do that, right?

On Currents, Kevin Parker reflects on a similar subject in the song aptly titled “Yes I’m Changing”:

“I was holding, I was searching endlessly / but baby, there’s nothing left that I can do / so don’t be blue / there’s another future waiting there for you”

In one of my favorite songs off the album, “Eventually”, Parker claims that after this apparent change, “I’ll know that I’ll be happier… Eventually.”

I believed there was a future for me in Bavaria, something that could make me happier. When I arrived, my perspective shifted. I didn’t expect to become immediately free from sin, or to have my dark thoughts suddenly erased. I wanted to be justified. My anxiety-induced loneliness and discomfort don’t make sense in Charlottesville, where I have wonderful friends all around me, and attend an esteemed university. Inner turmoil points to something deeply wrong within, something I want to run away from as fast as possible.

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In Bavaria, though, my loneliness and discomfort could suddenly be normal. They would finally make sense. There’s nobody here, and it really is lonely. Working in the mill is hard work, and it turns out I’m not actually all that good at bagging flour. It’s okay to be dissatisfied with my work. It’s normal. I’m normal. My minimal knowledge of the German language fails miserably when attempting to communicate with people speaking the Bavarian dialect. It’s uncomfortable and lonely, but perfectly normal. The justification would allow me to dodge my distracting anxieties and I could start over with less sin, more time with Jesus.

While the time here has been incredible, my hopes have overwhelmingly failed to materialize. The truth is, I managed to find new ways to be selfish, new outlets to feed my lust, new people to lie to, new strategies to generally avoid God. My whole “tough situation justifies dark feelings” turned out to be completely ridiculous as well– my life here is actually pretty awesome. In the end, I may have successfully changed my lifestyle, but it didn’t solve any problems. Like Alyosha in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, I hear the voice of Rakitin: “You are a Karamazov yourself, a full-fledged Karamazov.” I am at heart a sinner, despite my best efforts to deny that fact.

In the final song on Currents, Parker seems to come to the same conclusion. Entitled “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” Parker claims he feels like a “brand new person”. But this claim is proven to be empty and hollow as a second voice sings in the background “but you make the same old mistakes.”

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We try with everything we’ve got to become new-and-improved versions of ourselves. When we inevitably fail, we, like Parker, adamantly deny reality and tell ourselves the story we want/need to hear. The truth is, those efforts are almost always futile. We continue to make the same mistakes.

Tame Impala unfortunately never gets to the good news: that Jesus forgives us our repetitions and recidivism. He loves us despite our paltry attempts to engineer our justification. Grace abounds. In Him there is joy and comfort that neither a summer in Bavaria, nor a change in musical style, can offer.