Monday 6 March 2017

Review of 'Drunk' by Thundercat

Thundercat ought to be a pretentious douche. Most people with his level of instrumental prowess have the right to be. Instead, the bassist-extraordinaire refuses to take himself seriously. At all. Which is what makes him so lovable.

I feel weird/ comb your beard, brush your teeth/ still feel weird/ beat your meat, go to sleep’. These are the lyrics that open ‘Captain Stupido’ – not your usual sophisticated jazz content. However, as following bebop speedball track ‘Uh uh’ proves, this is undoubtedly a jazz record – and a very good one. Not only is ‘Uh Uh’s flurry of ever-changing chords and spidery bass twiddling so speedily intricate that it hurts my fingers just listening to it, the track is also proof that Thundercat can remain impressively melodic throughout.

This mix of scary musicianship, delicious melody and eccentric humour carries on for the remainder of Drunk. The funky singer/bassist may already have made his name with heavy features on critically acclaimed albums from Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, as well as releasing positively received studio albums of his own (I personally adored his previous mini-album), but Drunk feels like the strongest assertion of his personality yet. He’s unafraid to barrage us with sexy chords and grooves until our loins are sore, unafraid to overdo his Earth-Wind-And-Fire-esque falsettos to comical proportions and unafraid to sing about his love of Tokyo and wanting to be a cat (complete with musical meowing noises).

Indeed, not everyone will vibe with the L.A. musician’s decision to loads 23 tracks into fifty minutes. With most songs barely making two minutes, you could argue a lot of them are underdeveloped, but to me it just signals more proof of Thundercat’s refusal to boast. Longer songs of this style could risk being noodling and self-indulgent, and so he chooses to tease – which is fine by me.

And yet as deliberately corny, short and succinct as the music is, it still manages to be impactful in places - even if it feels like Thundercat is deliberately trying not to be deep or profound. ‘Friend Zone’ may be a chance for the artist to flaunt his low key nerd with a Mortal Kombat reference, but simultaneously is a powerfully defiant song about being friend zoned. ‘3AM’ barely stretches over a minute length and has more progression and texture than most neo-soul you’ll hear this year.

Some of the guests are certainly shaky. Pharrell can barely stay in tune on ‘The Turn Down’ and fuck knows what Wiz Khalifa is doing on this album? However, it's easy to look over these minor blemishes and herald this as the solid piece of next-gen punk-jazz that it is.