Review Summary: Thundercat's latest effort splashes with neon color- a sound that will conjure images of cats shooting lasers or He-Man riding a tiger though space.
Thundercat has always put his bass prowess front and center- whether he’s collaborating with long time partner Flying Lotus or laying down tracks of his own, his hyper drive playing is unmistakable. On his latest effort, Drunk, he continues to blend funk, electronica, and hip hop into soulful goodness, but these new tracks echo with a certain vibrancy that wasn’t there before. The slathered-on synths, accompanied by his already moving falsetto, culminates in a sound that splashes with neon color; a sound that will conjure images of cats shooting lasers or He-Man riding a tiger though space.
More often than not, this animated sound is matched by cheeky lyrics from a faded Thundercat, a caricature of himself that’s content to drink his problems away. This approach is hilarious on tracks like “Tokyo,” where he details his obsession with anime, and “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song: Part II)," where he ponders the awesomeness of being a cat. Unfortunately, the album is also littered with tracks where Thundercat winks too hard at the listener (“Jameel’s Space Ride," "Show You The Way," “Drink Dat”).
Thundercat is also able to find humor in rejection on “Friend Zone,” a song detailing his confusion with how his biggest female fan doesn’t want to give him some of that good-good. Is it because of how he wears his hair or is it because he loves playing Diablo? We’ll never know; but what is clear is that it’s one of the best tracks on this album. With its hypnotic loop and ridiculous chorus, this track will be on repeat in your head for days.
From here, the album hits its stride with an immaculate transition into “Them Changes.” The track continues his focus on rejection, but there’s more at stake here than pride- it’s his heart. “Nobody move, there’s blood on the floor/And I can’t find my heart.” This line is universally relatable in how it captures heartache feeling like a fresh wound, one that has your guts spilling all over the floor. What’s especially genius here is how the mysterious guitar and bass follow Thundercat’s hurt questioning- “How am I supposed to feel when I needed you the most?”
Although Drunk hits a lot more than it misses, when it does miss, it strikes out hard. The tracks that completely fall on their face are the more “serious” numbers that deal with themes of life and death. The only track of the bunch that succeeds in its intentions is “Jethro,” but the rest suffer from lyrics that are so haphazardly slapped together, that the songs come off as stream of conscious napkin scribblings (“Inferno,” “Blackkk”). What makes matters worse is that a lot of these songs are clumped together at the last third of the album. So, what could have been an excellent record, comparable to his previous LP, Apocalypse, ends up being “pretty good” because of its lackluster ending.
The interludes on Drunk are as equally problematic. To put it simply, there’s too many of them. “Jameel’s Space Ride” is pointless and thinks it’s funnier than it really is, while the back to back “I am crazy” and “3 am” attempt to further the album’s theme of drunkenness, but just end up bogging down the album’s already underwhelming climax. Let’s put it this way- if the great tracks on this album are the ones that make the listener feel like they’re going on a drunken space ride with Thundercat, the interludes would be the asteroids the shuttle hits along the way.
Drunk clocks in at 51 mins and 24 secs, but with the right trimming and track transition, the album would have fared better at a briskly paced 35 mins. Nonetheless, this album is perfect for hotboxing in your friend’s car, drinking at a house party, or just plain getting funky with the suds in your shower. Just make sure to do some strategic track skipping and you’re sure to have fun with a faded Thundercat.