Sunday 19 April 2015

Review of 'Cherry Bomb' by Tyler, the Creator

The eccentric rapper’s new album is either the musical equivalent of a Jackson Pollock art piece or the musical equivalent of something the cat threw up. Either way it’s a mess – but depending on how your ears are tuned and how much of a Tyler fanboy you are, it’ll either strike you as an artistic mess or garbage.

Instrumentally, Cherry Bomb sounds like an old warped soul record found in a psychopath’s basement. Beautiful jazzy chord progressions clash violently with noisy, industrial percussion that hints Tyler may have been spending a lot of time listening to Yeezus and Death Grips. The mixing is awful – sometimes clearly deliberate. The title track, ‘Cherry Bomb’, is distorted and overcompressed to fuck, coming across as almost a wall of noise with the vocals buried beneath. At first I dismissed it as cat puke, but slowly I’m leaning more towards Jackson Pollock - this song and similarly produced tracks ‘Pilot’ and ‘Buffalo’ are now some of my favourites on the record. The messiness has an angry, blood-pumping catharsis to it of which my inner maniac is drawn to.

Alternative cover for 'Cherry Bomb'

Sadly, not all tracks have this positive effect. On some songs like ‘Run’, the low mixing on the vocals is just irritating and the beat isn’t noisy enough to warrant how lo-fi it is. Running barely over one minute, the song also feels abruptly short and underdeveloped. Tracks like ‘2Seater’ by contrast don’t know when to end, meandering off until Tyler gets bored and decides to throw in a skit.

Contributing to the messiness is the bad singing from Tyler himself. Some of it is redeemed only by the fact that Tyler knows himself that he can’t sing, as declared at the start of ‘Fucking Young’. There’s a charm to the idea of Tyler doing whatever he wants regardless of what people think, but sometimes the singing is just painful and distracting. Couldn’t he have got somebody else to do it? As proved by features from Kanye and Lil Wayne on this record, Tyler has the connections and could get anyone to croon for him if he wanted.

Part of me thinks that at this point Tyler is simply too at peace with himself to care. After all, there’s no therapist on this record – perhaps Tyler no longer feels the need to spill out his internal troubles. The weird and wonderful multiple personas have also been scrapped – Wolf Haley, Sam, Tron Cat, Ace the Creator, Felicia the Goat, Tiny Tim (I’m making some of them up now) – which is good because I never cared for any of these characters anyway.

Instead, Tyler’s bars are more outward-thinking, straightforward and confident. He marvels the fact that he’s paying a mortgage while his friends are paying tuition. His messages are more positive: ‘spread your wings’. There’s less misanthropy and rape jokes. Saying that, not all the immaturity has faded. His love for the word ‘faggot’ is still present, and the track ‘ Blow my Load’ might be his crassest song to date (were the cunnilingus sound effects really necessary?).

Me during 'Blow my Load'

Overall, the whole album is a bit hit and miss, Tyler’s newfound carefree attitude causing the whole album to feel a bit clumsy. The critics no longer bother him – his cluttered beats, his choice to sing and his choice to rap about going down on the ladies all reflecting this.

His nihilistic outlook is admirable – almost inspirational. The issue is that in not caring about others’ opinions, he’s making music only for himself, and he’s clearly more tolerant of his own bad singing than I am.