Thundercat-Drunk: Album Review

We’ve always been living in a world where bass master Thundercat gets to do whatever he wants all the time.  Past albums haven’t taken themselves all that seriously—as exemplified by his ecstasy anthem “Oh Sheit It’s X”—and his features have popped up all over the place, entirely dependent on where Thundercat’s computer took him that day.  But Drunk is peak random and takes the album experience to astoundingly sarcastic heights.  It’s an album where falsetto oohs and ahhs suddenly turn into raucous be-bop lines, with 60 seconds about Japan and anime here, a 20 second instrumental there and a Wiz Khalifa drinking tune for kicks.  The result is unfortunately far too choppy of an experience that also somehow attains the same general aesthetic throughout, making for a bit of a dry addition to the catalogue.

Save standouts like “Show You the Way” and “Friend Zone,” the first three or four tracks are pretty much all you need to hear to know what happens on “Drunk.”  Opener “Rabbit Ho” is 39 seconds long and comprised of one jazz motive, then “Captain Stupido” follows with lyrics about waking up after leaving your wallet at the club over a quirky bass melody.  Thundercat then trades off solo ideas with a pianist on “Uh Uh” before singing about the addicting nature of cell phones in a quasi-reading-rainbow style on “Bus in These Streets.”  Each of these tracks are just so short and underdeveloped that it’s hard to really grasp anything and even though Thundercat is offering a lot of different musical ideas in the short spurts, his vocal capabilities just aren’t versatile enough to really alter the impact from track to track.

“Show You the Way” shows that Thundercat is at his best when he’s working in something of a pop-music format.  Sporting awesome features from Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald (yes, you read that right), the tune has clear verses tied together by a catchy chorus and a fun, danceable bass line.  The lyrics are poetic and a bit undefined, but they’re focused.  In the refrain, Thundercat asks for trust in an upcoming journey: “Let me show you the way/A burning light on the edge of dark/We’ll live with dark, just take the ride.”  Then, each verse talks about how love can carry us through whatever lies ahead: “Wake up and dream, tear down the wall/Of all you believe that might not be true/Long as love lies waiting there.”  The track also has the perfect balance of personality and legitimacy as Thundercat semi-ironically introduces each feature with a lounge-singer tone followed by light-clapping—it’s a tune that doesn’t take itself seriously, but it’s still a TUNE.  It’s just unfortunate that it took nine half-assed tracks to get to a well put together composition.

Immediately following is a Kendrick Lamar feature that goes wasted as the track is far too mellow, to the point of being bland.  “Tokyo” is a hilarious ride through fandom that again suffers from bland delivery and “Jameel’s Space Ride” is fun, but simply far too short for notoriety.  By track 14—“Friend Zone”—we finally hear another focused pop tune, however, it’s tainted by the shitty lyrics (I thought the stupid concept of the “friend zone” ended in 2014).  Past that there’s little to talk about besides the demo quality of the Wiz Khalifa feature and the slow decay of all that could possibly be considered interesting in the last five tracks.

At 16 minutes in length, The Beyond/Where Giants Roam—Thundercat’s last offering—got away with the same whispery mood on each of its four short, fleeting numbers and pulled together two memorable stand-out tracks with the help of Kamasi Washington and Herbie Hancock.  “Drunk” is 52 minutes long and delivers roughly the same amount of memorable material—including a repeat performance of “Them Changes”—over 23 tracks with far too many mellowed-out, two-minute-or-less gusts of wind coming in between.  Perhaps if lyrics like “I’d rather play Mortal Kombat anyway” or “gonna blow all my cash on anime” came with a bit more of an inspired vocal delivery, the album would be more fun and energetic but, the over-arching impact falls completely flat.

-Donovan Burtan

5/10

If this is harsh it’s because I really love Thundercat and felt really let down by this album.

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