The spotlight has never shined down on Stephen Bruner (Thundercat), but his fourth album Drunk helps his gradual climb in notoriety. A distinct inclusion to his discography, Drunk strays from a previous ideology of crafting albums that succeeded due to a few songs and fragments of songs. This style, present on works such as Apocalyptic and EP The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam, is abandoned as Bruner creates his first work meant to be interpreted as a coherent whole. He tells a story and invites the listener to join him in a world in which he sloppily progresses through a night of drinking.
Thundercat begins to introduce his wild storyline in the first track “Rabbat Ho” in which he rhythmically sings the lyrics, “Let’s go hard, get drunk/ And travel down a rabbit hole.” Continuing on his journey, the album begins to reveal a problematic, repetitive nature. Most songs sound exactly the same, and in this sense, Drunk is similar to his previous records. This repetition also carries over to his vocal arrangements: there is no variation between tracks, and the “Oooh’s” that plague almost every song will make you think it’s not worth it to continue listening.
Still, Thundercat’s latest record continues to showcase Stephen Bruner’s exceptional ability to fuse genres. His introduction of synths reminiscent of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s help in nourishing his neo-soul/funk sound, while production from long-time friend Flying Lotus gives a sense of nostalgia that was apparent in previous work. Though having worked successfully with Flying Lotus on all previous albums, a stray from the collaborations could aid Thundercat in developing a unique sound of his own.
With that being said, there are some standout songs on the album. These include “Jameel’s Space Ride,” as Thundercat sings about his trials and tribulations of being a black man; “Friend Zone,” for the occasional funny lyric; and “Inferno,” for creating a vibrant honeyed sound that differs from other tracks. The inclusion of high profile artists such as Kendrick Lamar on “Walk On By” and Pharrell on “The Turn Down” is quite commendable too, but it feels as if the vision of the full album he wished for didn’t quite play out like he desired.