By: Carlos Lima-Lopez
Strange how I really dig the themes and vibes Thundercat is exploring on his new surprise EP, and it’s also strange how I don’t feel so full after listening to it so many times. Everything about this EP could’ve been another winner for whirlwind bassist Stephen Bruner’s discography if he had just taken some more time to flesh it out. You don’t go to a five star sushi restaurant expecting to have the best sushi ever only to find out all they serve is small portions.
Hold on, because I feel like this is going to be sound like an angry review when it isn’t. All in all, I really like this new EP. Thundercat has no shortage of his talents and here, he has some of his more emotionally revealing music. With concepts of loneliness, abrupt heartbreak, life after death, and an ode to an obscure yet influential Japanese manga, Thundercat is really wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Thundercat sings in such despair and confusion in “Hard Times” that it hits a little close to home. There’s something about the unfamiliarity of loneliness and being in a dark place for the first time that gets me; it’s also emotionally overwhelming. Just listen to how he sings, “I can’t feel my face. Where’s this cold, dark place?” You can hear how confused he is in his new emotional state. It also gets to me when he sings “This must be the end. Time to shed some skin”; it reminds us of how sometimes, the most beautiful things in our lives must end and we just have to move we’re just going to have move onward. Of course, there seems to be a glimmer when he begs for to give him “sight beyond sight” to get him through the hard times.
Then he segues with “Song For The Dead”, where he laments on the loss of his friends but hopes they find whatever it is they are looking for in the spiritual plane. It’s harrowingly mournful, and I really dig it when the drums come in, giving it this nice bounce. Then there’s the somber “Lone Wolf and Cub”, inspired by a Japanese Manga. To get to the meat of it, “Lone Wolf and Cub” tells the story of a swordsman and his infant child who travel to get revenge for the murder of his wife. The song, however, seems to be dedicated to those who are single parents, who will do anything to protect their cubs. Then, he gets to this really chaotic, melodic, freak out bass jam. I think that solo, in addition to “Them Changes”, is worth the price of admission.
However, the cornerstone of this EP is “Them Changes”. A funky, emotionally driven song with The Isley Brother’s “Dancers in The Dark” break providing the beat, this song should definitely convince anyone to look into Thundercat’s work. There’s all this graphic imagery of blood on the floor (maybe a Michael Jackson reference?) and having a hole through your chest where your heart used to be. Much like Blur’s “No Distance Left to Run” and Tame Impala’s “Eventually”, this is one of the more painful break-up songs I have heard. I can imagine the main character walking around, with blood slowing trickling from his chest. Just hearing him sing, “Why in the world would I give my heart to you? Just watch to you throw it in the trash” is brutal and scathing.
All of this is brilliant, and yet, maybe I feel a little cheated. It’s been two years since Thundercat’s last albumApocalypse, which still remains as one of my favorite albums. He’s been having an enormous year thus far, all thanks to his major contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece, To Pimp A Butterfly, and playing for Kamasi Washington in The Epic. He’s done work for J*Davey, Childish Gambino, and has played bass onstage with Seth MacFarlane. It’s incredible that his creative juice hasn’t waned and he’s only going to keep going higher. It’s just that when I want to eat sushi at the best sushi joint, I want to have that satisfactory “I’m stuffed” feeling.
All quibbles aside, I am indeed happy that Thundercat is putting out more music and come Grammy’s 2016, I know he’ll be walking away with something. I shall wait for Mr. Bruner to release something magical and hopefully, inspired by super space feline LilBub.