Review Summary: JESUS, this is SWEET. Sink your TEETH into it.
How productive have you been in the last couple of months?
BROCKHAMPTON have just released the quintessential “...Oh, and another thing!”
album; I mean, I’ve only written twenty-five reviews since the release of the first one. Yet, for a collective still in their infancy (ALIVESINCEFOREVER formed in 2012, eventually expanding their line-up through Kanye internet forums and the like), BROCKHAMPTON are remarkably focused on letting disparate flows and ideas bleed into each other as effectively as possible. I’d like to think that their lifestyle influences the way they write music: constant close proximity, the urgency that is borne out of living day-to-day, playfulness and an uncanny familiarity with each other. At the very least, it feels like the two contexts are interchangeable, because the boy band craft songs that play out like conversations, building on a listening experience that’s as instantly gratifying as it is provocative.
(A.K.A BUMP II
) is that kind of conversation, because it shifts carefully atop layers of subtext and emotion. With sunny-day synths intermingling with scuzzy bass, the song sees the collective in a closer huddle than they ever were on SATURATION I
. The beat switch-up between the verse and the hook works well here because, as the tender hook plays out, Matt’s threatening “don’t go runnin’ your mouth”
prior is revealed as the defensive, protective, hostile side of the group; the one that will turn vicious if any other member is threatened or endangered. And SAT II
illustrates a major improvement in this interplay – the sudden pivot feels more natural, the violence and the compassion juxtaposed more efficiently so that the best of both facets is evoked.
Obviously, it’s difficult to view this record as its own entity, and even more difficult to write about it without considering its relationship to both its predecessor, and the (eventual) successor. But for what it’s worth, this record sees each member gloriously and completely out of their shell, in a way that the first of the trilogy did not. All performers are distinctly, instantly recognisable through their own delivery: Dom raps like a perfectionist; flow watertight and smooth; wordplay focused (“I put the ‘coon’ in ‘tycoon’”
). Matt instead lets his rhymes – absentminded but no less valuable – drift along in a cloud of weed smoke, while Ameer’s deep, languid delivery is employed in such a way that his words can burn a hole in your skin. Kevin’s has both the ear and the voice for melody; the group’s verses sticking to his contagious hooks as if they’re a life source, while Joba is electrifying and erratic – unpredictable every time he appears. I fancy Joba a bit of a supervillain, the group’s wild card, if you will. And Merlyn? Well…Merlyn does what he does.
(I'm joking… sort of. Merlyn is undeniably entertaining, and “DON’T CALL ME STUPID / THAT AIN’T THE WAY MY NAME PRONOUNCED”
is easily the funniest lyric on this thing.)
Speaking of Merlyn, BROCKHAMPTON – in the interim between I and II – have embraced the weirdness
, bringing elements from left-field and pushing them out onto centre stage. Maybe the idea is best exemplified by the decision to release JUNKY
as a single. The sparse beat fosters Kevin’s most immediate, confronting verse yet, before suddenly exploding into a piercing cacophony of solemn piano chords and tire screeches. The song is about what its title suggests, but it also feels like a dumping ground of discontent, of bottom-of-the-barrel thoughts and castigations. It’s the kind of song that seeps into the rest of the track-list, poisoning it, covering the overarching atmosphere with a caustic kind of sensation that galvanises the record as a whole. It makes sense that (disregarding SCENE 2
) the track is followed by FIGHT
, which rides along a snake-charmer’s melody, but still manages to contain Dom and Ameer’s most lucid and determined verses yet put to tape. The lyrics don’t just exist for some proof of versatility; they are necessary (“lil’ black boys have a place in the world…like hanging from trees”
), and a perfect example of BROCKHAMPTON walking through the doors that opened for them during SATURATION I.
As pjorn said, though: “most of this slaps but then it turns into some lame alt rock smh”
, and while I wouldn’t go that far, I see his point – the record follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by contriving some pathos in a way that feels disingenuous and unnatural. The last three songs are slow-burners, late-night-dim-light listens that feel incongruous in an album full of grimy, bass-driven instrumentals. It’s the second time they’ve done this in three months: SATURATION I’s
home stretch also sent the record off with songs that you're meant to sway to instead of kick doors down to (nice callback, idiot
), which makes it feel like the boy-band risk acquiescing to impulse or falling into a formula. The cuts, in my opinion, are inoffensive – littered with sickly sweet, pop-RNB style vocals and glittery instrumentals (glockenspiel?? fair enough, I guess…
), but they kill momentum, making it sound as though the record is sleeping through its own climax.
But, to receive the record as it is, being a part and not a sum: BROCKHAMPTON re-tread the same ideas, but with more proficiency and more urgency than before – like a Dark Souls player attempting to do a speed run after playing the game a million times over at leisure. The highs here (SWEET, FIGHT, ET AL
) are delightful; they’re good enough that I feel genuinely privileged to exist at the same time as a group this immense and
intoxicating. Colour me sufficiently excited for the final act. In which, I postulate, Kevin’s mom will finally accept his homosexuality, Merlyn will finally spit a verse I can understand, and whoever is in charge of song-titling will finally fix their caps lock button.
Not productive enough, obviously...