Review Summary: GOLD STAR, BOYS
Every track title on SATURATION
is a single word stylised with all caps, like BROCKHAMPTON are students to the gospel of DOOM. It’s appropriately immediate: the verses and beats all over this record are confrontational and very-fucking-to-the-point, without a filter only because the collective have taken to smashing that thing to pieces. The all caps aesthetic might seem gimmicky if it wasn’t for the fact that, on this album, BROCKHAMPTON are actually shouting at you to pay attention. They’ve written a record that kicks doors down with a smile, and follows up its bar-for-bar braggadocio with actual substance. Thank God.
Like all my favourites, the arrogance is reeled in by a sense of sincerity, even if it means dropping the façade for a second. MILK
, a song that could actually be called beautiful (huh?), collapses against the walls of its own paranoia and insecurity. “I’ve gotta get better at everything / at being who I am”
it cries, lashing out against life with the abandon of a genuinely frayed human being. It occurs during the latter half of the record, and it gives the general impression of a group of people gradually working out what they really consider important. It’s the old materialism versus spiritualism argument, except it’s filtered through an album of absolute bangers…or whatever.
It’s a testament to how well SATURATION
works as a whole. I began this album from my vantage point, off to the side of the railway, watching in confusion as the hype train barreled inexorably towards the global society of hip-hop fans. But the second half (from BUMP
) wonderfully re-contextualizes what came before it, like we’re watching a behind-the-scenes documentary in which BROCKHAMPTON scoff at a life of gold chains; of “crack rocks and stripper poles”. The whole thing is invigorated by the skits as well - little soundbites that treat existentialism with a shrug of the shoulders and then turn themselves back to the music.
But this is a hip-hop record, and a prototypical hip-hop record at that. The lyrics weave in and out of violent disputes and drug-fucked relationships with an intensity that can only be scraped off the ground floor. HEAT
kicks off (really, it kicks off
) the record with Ameer Vann as he makes himself unmistakably clear: “Give me something or a body, only way I’ll leave / I love to watch ‘em squirm / I love when bitches bleed”
. It’s a shocking, vile way to introduce the landscape, but retrospect serves to show the distinction between this ugly surface and what lies beneath; the battleground and the living, breathing people forced into its crossfire. BROCKHAMPTON are poetic when the need arises, too, delineating their struggles against cultural ignorance and needless violence without the use of throwaway lines and ham-fisted rhyme schemes (check Dom’s verse on CASH
The beats, though? Half the time they hold no reservations, delivering blows with clenched fists. It's almost like they're being controlled by a palpable aggression; like they demand nothing but your respect and your unequivocal attention. The rest of the instrumentals might as well be the same beats on a different day – more composed but just as embittered. The fists are still curled up into balls, make no mistake, but the songs are warier of the consequences, so they hold back from the confrontation. Tracks like HEAT
fall into the former class: it’s a cut that sounds like it’s slowly burning away gristle, needling under the skin without even trying. WASTE
, then, represents the latter category because it has aggression coalescing with seduction; making for something syrupy yet passionate. BUMP
has one foot in either camp.
is a music fan’s hip-hop album. It’s a carefully constructed mosaic of pop-culture references, antagonistic rhymes and a chemistry between the members of the "boy band" which cannot be understated. The end product is kind of scary, kind of lovely and kind of exhilarating. Just remember: all-caps when you spell the band name.