Self-aware, mystical, and somber, bass guitar guru Stephen Brunner continues his legacy as the eccentric moniker “Thundercat” on his third installment, Drunk. Though his previous albums explored the spirit and death, Drunk contemplates on the chaos and mess of what we are already experiencing: moving through the life. Stories of frustrating love, revenge, uncertainty, and lots of talk about “Diablo” is backed by a funk, R&B and punk fusion that can only be accumulated through Thundercat’s experience. Meaningless but meaningful, Drunk-era Thundercat is intoxicatingly funky and honest.
It is hard to describe the type of experience Drunk offers. The 23-track saga explores everything from cheating women, to the desire to transition into an animal, to Dragonball Z. But what I can say is that one is instantly catapulted into Thundercat’s odd, enchanting world by the end of a bass line. “Them Changes,” a standout track which was actually featured on 2015’s The Beyond/ Where the Giants Roam, is revisited with long-time collaborator Flying Lotus joining in on the fun. The groove and funk intertwined in every pulse, paired with a kung-fu inspired music video, echoes of a more innocent time. However, the lyrically-charged heartbreak rings of the present and future. All of Thundercat’s music seems to have this effect–like you have heard the songs before, almost as if you can harmonize and sing along. For me, I swear some of the electronic rhythms I heard from hours of “SimCity” and “Monkey Ball” game play. But they are too futuristic. It seems in many ways that they transcend a time frame.
“Friend Zone,” which was originally released as a single, interestingly contains some of the highest highs and lows of the album. Of course, it is inherently funky. But this anthem for the men who have been played and heartbroken comes across as a little, well, cringey. The track is a collaboration with electronic music producer Mono/Poly, and as intricate and lively as the beats are, I just don’t feel it. Maybe it is because it feels like it is just complaining about women with no real wisdom gained, or maybe it is because one of the samples in the song’s intro is literally my morning alarm clock, and my harsh judgement is due to something subliminal.
Although collaborations with other music moguls is typically magical on everything Thundercat, Wiz Khalifa’s feature on “Drink Dat” shows he is unable to get into Brunner’s world. Both are talented, but in this case, their artistic styles were unable to mesh. “Drink Dat” belongs on a Wiz Khalifa album, or maybe it’s meant to be played on loud speakers before an outdoor Maroon 5 concert to pass time.
The oddball sense of humor which is now synonymous with Brunner’s writing is more apparent than ever before. (After much debate, my friends and I are in agreement that the line “I’d rather play Mortal Combat anyways” is going to be our favorite lyric of 2017). This is something I have always loved about Thundercat’s world: weird is cool. Everything has this touch of weirdness. For instance, take “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II).” For the entirety of the song, Thundercat sings about everyone wanting to be a cat. Surely, this sort of declaration isn’t normally associated with coolness. But when Thundercat does it, for whatever reason, I’m like, “Oh man! He’s right.” Maybe it’s the smoothness of his falsetto, or the nostalgia induced when he name-drops “Diablo.” As much of a character as Brunner’s “Thundercat” is, I think everyone who grew up surfing Adult Swim at odd hours or playing Nintendo sees him in themselves.
Favorite tracks: “Them Changes,” “Show You the Way,” “Rabbot Ho,” “Jethro”
Least favorite: “Friend Zone,” “Drink Dat”