Author: Dane McKittrick
Stephen Bruner, better known as Thundercat, has led an impressive musical career to say the least. The critically acclaimed bassist has been gaining notoriety since the age of 15 and has been featured live with everyone from Kenny Loggins to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He even won a Grammy for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s track “These Walls” off the famous album To Pimp a Butterfly.
Aside from working with some of the biggest names in music, Thundercat has also embarked on a successful solo career, releasing 4 albums since 2011. The most recent of these albums, Drunk, produced in February of 2017, is a great addition to an already impressive list of musical accomplishments.
Even for Thundercat’s relatively low name recognition in the circle of main stream music, Drunk shows his behind the scenes influence by featuring heavy hitting artists like Wiz Khalifa on “Drink Dat”, Pharrell Williams on “The Turn Down”, and Kendrick Lamar himself on “Walk on By”. However, these artist by no means overshadow the abilities of Thundercat himself. Tracks like “Friend Zone” and “Tokyo” include some of his trademark funk bass, even though they are surprisingly synth heavy. My personal favorite piece of the album, “Them Changes”, one of the most bass heavy songs on the album, starts with percussion and continues with a strong, stand-alone bass part so funky you could almost smell it. But other than that, most of Drunk seems to lack strong bass lines, which seems very odd for such a prominent bassist. It is also obvious that Thundercat has not lost any of his bass playing skill when he does feature it, as is apparent on tracks like “Uh Uh” that include almost unbelievably fast and technical bass parts. This pattern is true for his previous albums as well, including Apocalypse and The Golden Age of Apocalypse, which very sparsely feature exposed bass lines. Perhaps Thundercat is merely trying to branch out and develop his skills outside of what people already know him for.
If I had to categorize Drunk, I would probably place it between new wave jazz and modern funk, with heavy electronic elements. These electronic traits are slightly more apparent on Drunk than previous albums, and can be seen on songs like “Jethro” and “Tokyo”. ” Pieces like “Jameel’s Space Ride” use these elements and a light and jumpy keyboard part, to draw an almost old-timey video game feeling of them. All songs on Drunk are paired with Thundercat’s relatively high and butter-smooth voice, giving the album a dreamy and almost trance like vibe.
All that being said, Thundercat has done an excellent job developing a unique sound. Most of his solo career thus far has had a definite connectivity to it and he doesn’t seem to have a desire to stray from that style any time soon. This clearly talented artist deserves respect for finding solo success, especially with the fact that he started as a bassist, which are all too often overlooked in the musical world. Drunk is strong in both instrumentation and vocal style and I would give it generally high marks. A great album to bum around and relax to.