I briefly considered Thundercat’s, EP The Beyond / Were the Giants Roam (2015) for my year list some time ago. I remember Stephen Bruner’s was doing something special but the short EP’s length held me back. Luckily I never forgot about him because he made some very notable appearances on the albums of Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. Now Thundercat is back with a full release which is straightforwardly titled: Drunk.
On Drunk, Bruner draws you into his world of warm groove. It’s okay to close your eyes to many of the 23 songs. Just let yourself go for a minute but beware of the dark hints of death or alcoholism that are always lingering on the background. On ‘3AM’ Bruner gently sings about insomnia while ‘DUI’,‘Drunk’ and ‘Drink Dat’ all are centred on some kind of form of heavy drinking. Bruner manages to blend relaxation and relentlessness together with loose, storytelling lyrics. Bruner goes through life’s up and downs without becoming judgemental whether he’s beating off, getting friend zone or just doesn’t know what he’s going to do with his life.
‘Them Changes’ perhaps is the album’s best example of playful somberness. Under the tones of a shaggy 70s R&B groove Bruner opens with the words, “Nobody move, there’s blood on the floor. And I can’t find my heart. Where did it go? Did I leave it in the cold? So please give it back, ’cause it’s not yours to take”. Also the creamy lead single of Drunk, ‘Show You the Way’ is bittersweet to the bones. Here he is assisted by soft rock legends Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald with who he redefines over-the-top muscial tenderness.
In terms of beats Bruner also flirts with Flying Lotus on the instrumental ‘Uh Uh’ on which piano and a fast drum and bass swirl round each other. This pace also comes into play in the undertones of ‘Where I’m Going’ but is also countered by slow-burning beats of ‘Lava Lamp’ and ‘Jethro’.
When comparing Drunk to 2015’s The Beyond / Were the Giants Roam I would say that there are not many differences besides the number of tracks. On his third studio album Bruner takes more time to gradually fall into the darkness of drinking, drugs and heartbreak which eventually a sort of escapism he bluntly celebrates on ‘Friend Zone’: “You stuck me in the friendzone. […] Because I’d rather play Mortal Kombat anyway, I’m all about my Johnny Cage. If you’re not bringing tacos I suggest you start to walk away. Bitch don’t kill my vibe.” So there you have it, Thundercat is stuck in his easy chair that sits well and he’s not planning to leave it.
Drunk is a sort of goofy form of R&B elegant fusion that withholds a silent longing for companionship. It’s nice enough to put on as background music but is far more enjoyable when you’re able to understand Bruner’s honesty and heartache as dark humor.
Label: Brainfeeder, 2017
- Rabbot Ho (0:38)
- Captain Stupido (1:41)
- Uh Uh (2:16)
- Bus in These Streets (2:24)
- A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II) (2:38)
- Lava Lamp (2:58)
- Jethro (1:34)
- Day & Night (0:37)
- Show You the Way (3:34) ft. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins
- Walk on By (3:19) ft. Kendrick Lamar
- Blackkk (1:59)
- Tokyo (2:24)
- Jameel’s Space Ride (1:09)
- Friend Zone (3:12)
- Them Changes (3:08)
- Where I’m Going (2:09)
- Drink Dat (3:35) ft. Wiz Khalifa
- Inferno (4:00)
- I am Crazy (0:25)
- 3Am (1:15)
- Drunk (1:42)
- The Turn Down (2:29) ft. Pharrell
- DUI (2:18)
Thundercat on Brainfeeder
Review by Wander Meulemans // 270317