Being drunk is for sure an odd experience.
Apart from being very bad for your health (it is actually poison) and making you do things you will regret the morning after due to the lowering of social inhibitions, alcohol sometimes allows you to be utterly sincere, for better or for worse, and unveil things unknown to yourself in the euphoria (or melancholia). It certainly looks like a contradiction: you are in a state of complete alteration, totally irrational, but at the same time you are able to reach the truth. It is like finding light in the darkness.
And this peculiar type of drunkness seems to be the leitmotiv of Stephen Burner’s, aka Thundercat, last effort, Drunk. It is also a way to get back on Earth after two “transcendental” records that deeply analyzed the concept of death and the survival of the soul.
2013’s Apocalypse and 2015’s The Beyond / Where The Giant Roams were, in fact, Thundercat’s way to deal with the pain of the loss of close friend and collaborator Austin Peralta. The bond between these two albums it is so strong that they might be considered as a two-parts work, which starts from life’s extinction on the planet and ends “somewhere between space and time”.
With “Drunk”, instead, Bruner sticks firmly to the ground and digs into it, traveling “down a rabbit hole”, in the darkness, as stated in the very first track “Rabbot Ho”.
The reference from Lewis Carrol’s Alice Adventures in Wonderland is clear, and contributes to set the psychedelic mood of the record. And what lies down the rabbit hole is nothing more than the world we live in, which Thudercat explores and tells in 23 tracks co-produced by his long-time collaborator Fying Lotus.
The way he proceeds in his journey is aystematic, like he tries to replicate the state of confusion caused from alcohol abuse, and gives Thundercat an unpredictable stylistic freedom.
After a 70’s funk track like “Captain Stupido”, in which he humorously describes a mechanic routine of partying, masturbating and sleeping, he is able to switch to a pensive ambiance, that after a few seconds also turns into a hyperkinetic fusion jam, in the “Uh Uh” interlude.
He creates a sense of urgency in the soft-punk interior monologue that is “Where I’m Going”, a track that express the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do in life, and than turns the lights off for the slow, stoned rap-ballad, “Drink Dat”, starring Whiz Khalifa on the mic.
These kind of transition could easily shred the rhythm of a record, but Bruner’s musical eclecticism freshly mixes cool jazz and 70’s psychedelic rock, prog and punk, IDM and fusion, and creates smooth shifts from one genre to another. It is a continuos variation of atmosphere and tempos that never spoils the groove.
The lyrics are deeply layered as well, and present a great variety of themes and tones. The atmosphere can get comical and yet sharp in tracks like “Bus In The Streets”, that ironically focuses on how people have become addicted to technology and social media these days and fear to remain “behind the curve” if they leave their phone alone for a few hours, or “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Suite II)”, which express the desire to live a life of freedom and peace imagining how cool would be “to be a cat” (Tron is actually Thundercat’s cat shortened name) and quoting Disney’s The Lion King.
But there are also touching moments, like “Lava Lamp” in which Stephen opens up completely and mourns, disarmed, the death of someone he loved (maybe Peralta?), or “Walk On By”, where alongside Kendrick Lamar he meditates on the weight of loneliness and the possibility of fixing the mistakes done in the past and maybe obtain some sort of redemption.
Drunk is a kaleidoscopic record, both funny and melancholic, wonky and pensive, that mixes instrumental virtuosity and quirky lyrics, dragging the listener trough “the rabbit hole” and back, and, above all, it is the honest narration of Stephen Bruner’s interior life.
Full listen to the album below: