Thundercat's new album will have you writin' "Turn up" on your cups.Brainfeeder, 2017
8.0 / 10
At 23 songs, Thundercat’s new album, Drunk, is a somewhat daunting but ultimately rewarding listen. The album exists in the same musical universe as Flying Lotus’s You’re Dead and Kendrick Lamar’s How To Pimp A Butterfly. Obviously all three men share a connection to each other’s albums as collaborators. Those two albums along with Drunk also take inspiration from jazz and funk. The albums’ similar soundscapes are quickly familiar. Where Drunk differs is its more eccentric nature. The songs’ themes and narratives are all over the place. Often humorous, often sad, but always entertaining.
In a way, Thundercat (real name: Stephen Bruner) employs a little Ariel Pink strategy on Drunk. Though Bruner never sings about schnitzel on the album, he does confess his love of Dragon Ball Z on “Tokyo”. “I went to the dentist and he gave me a toy/ It was Dragon Ball Z, a wrist-slap bracelet/ Goku fucking grew in me,” he sings as nerds everywhere go apeshit. Then dogs unfortunately lose the timeless pet debate on “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II)”, as Bruner muses how “it’s cool to be a cat.” Album single, “Friend Zone”, brings up that dreaded concept aware to every “nice” guy. Apparently, his banishment to the friend zone is due to a love of the video game Diablo.
Bruner balances these funnier songs with heavy hearted ones. “Jameel’s Space Ride”1 references racial profiling by police officers. Keep in mind that this is done with the most upbeat music for such a subject matter. “Them Changes” is a more poetic statement on a romance’s demise as Bruner sings of having his heart ripped out of his chest. Death plays as a theme in “Lava Lamp”, where Bruner is seemingly referencing the passing of his friend and collaborator Austin Peralta. “Don’t want to live without you/ Don’t leave me out here to die,” he sings.
On top of its varied themes, Drunk features an interesting guest list. Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald show up on the soulful R&B jam “Show You The Way” that sounds like something by The BeeGees. Kendrick Lamar stops by on the following song, “Walk On By”, doing what Kendrick does. The album also features appearances from Wiz Khalifa, Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus. At 23 songs, there’s obviously room for guests to appear. Drunk’s length feels bloated at times even though some of its songs are merely snippets. However, its mood, textures, and songwriting are enough to get you the right kind of intoxicated.
1. The song is named after Thundercat’s brother; although, Jameel does not appear on the song.