Nobody does it quite like Stephen Bruner. Better known as Thundercat, the L.A. bass player extraordinaire has dabbled in everything from hip-hop to thrash metal, and on his third album Drunk, he steps back into his outré funk comfort zone while still managing to sharpen his creative wit.
It’s easy to find elements of Thundercat’s music that set him apart from his contemporaries. The jazz chords, unrefined falsetto, and funky bass are all indicators of his musical fingerprint. It’s his goofy sense of humor, however, that really makes Drunk unique, and it’s rare to hear an album marry deep introspection with observational hilarity so seamlessly. At his silliest, Bruner can be heard making fart noises, singing about his favorite Mortal Kombat character or waxing poetic about a love for anime.
But the album also has a darker side. “Where I’m Going” is a murky nighttime jam and on “Walk On By”, he and Kendrick Lamar discuss relationships getting clipped short — either by self-destructive lovers or senseless gang violence. Perhaps the best distillation of Drunk‘s blend of comedy and gravity is on “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II”). Throughout the track, Thundercat “meows” his own backing vocals and quotes The Aristocats but somehow he still paints a somber picture of himself as a man burdened by responsibility and his own mortality.
What sets Drunk apart from his previous albums is its heavy emphasis on guest performers. Interestingly, the two most prominent featured artists are producers: almost half of the 23 tracks showcase either longtime friend and collaborator Flying Lotus or TDE’s Sounwave who help round out the release’s jagged edges with smoother textures. Wiz Khalifa is one of the last rappers you’d think to find here, but he sounds right at home and even Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald don’t feel out of place with their bizarre guest verses. That’s the wonderful irony of Drunk — by going out of his way to embrace his eccentricities, Thundercat has created a consistent LP that resets art’s boundaries.
Best Tracks: “A Fan’s Mail”, “Walk On By”, “Them Changes”, “Friend Zone”