Groovy basslines can’t carry an album. Thundercat still hasn’t learned that lesson yet as his latest project It Is What It Is is another effort that punches below his weight.
This is the fourth full-length feature from singer, producer, and noted bassist Stephen Bruner, A.K.A. Thundercat.
Surprisingly, Thundercat’s discography has flown under my radar even though he is in one of my favorite genres of music. Going back and listening to albums like Apocalypse, and his most popular record to date, Drunk, I haven’t found anything to put him above the cut compared to the rest of the artists in the psychedelic realm of funk, soul and R&B. However, the man knows how to put together rhythm and catchy grooves that remind of some of the great basslines such as Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and D’Angelo’s “Lady”.
Unfortunately, It Is What It Is has even messier mixing than the likes of Drunk and the majority of songs on this album are inconsequential to having any sort of impact on the listener. “How Sway”, “Funny Thing”, and “Overseas” all come in at under two minutes each in the middle of the record, and create a void that feels like there should be a great song somewhere within this four to five minutes of runtime, but it is all just filler. While I do like the tempo to “Funny Thing”, “Overseas” tries to be a comical intro to “Dragonball Durag” where Thundercat tries to join the Mile High Club. Zack Fox even makes a shockingly unfunny appearance at the end of the track.
Now, this album doesn’t go without praise because there are a lot of great moments on here.
“Black Qualls” is an outstanding piece of funk music with features from the likes of Steve Lacy and a surprise closing appearance from Childish Gambino. Thundercat’s falsetto is under control on this track, which is another problem with this project.
The best, and most complete song on this album is the absolutely hilarious “Dragonball Durag” in which Thundercat tries to be as un-sexy as possible talking about video games, comic books and being covered in cat hair.
“King of The Hill” is a laidback, spacey cut that discusses how someone with fame can fall to the influences that come with having money, and doing things he probably shouldn’t.
“Unrequited Love” is a beautiful ballad that was first heard on the anime series Carole & Tuesday, in which we have done a review for. The hook is tantalizing and it will put you in all your feels, especially during a time when all you can do is sit in your home.
Outside of those four songs, there really isn’t a track I was impressed by. “Fair Chance” features a vapid and confusing verse from Lil B, who chooses to sing for no good reason, and while the closing tracks have good intentions, they once again fall into the album’s theme of inconsequentiality.
Richest Tracks: “Black Qualls”, “Miguel’s Happy Dance”, “Funny Thing”, “Dragonball Durag”, “Unrequited Love”
Worst Tracks: “How Sway”, “Overseas”
Listen to the album