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Thundercat - It Is What It Is (Album Review)

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 Written by James Lawson

Photo: The1point8

After his monumental 2017 effort ‘Drunk’ blasted Thundercat’s space-age, bass-led jazz fusion into the ears of hordes of new listeners, ‘It Is What It Is’ arrives as his most highly anticipated release to date.

In that regard, ‘It Is What It Is’ seems, at first, to be a disappointingly defeatist title for Stephen Bruner’s new work, suggesting that the added pressure of newfound mainstream popularity has pushed the six string bass virtuoso to rushing out sub-par material to meet a spike in demand. It becomes apparent within seconds, however, that this is not the case. Whatever the titular ‘it’ is, it is very special indeed.

The core theme here is grief, particularly that felt by Bruner for the loss of his late friend Mac Miller, but he dances his lightning fast fingers across the whole spectrum of human emotion, rising from the glowing serenity of the first two tracks before giving way abruptly to the breakneck-tempo madness of I Love Louis Cole and How Sway.

Throughout, the LP is punctuated by unexpected bursts of humour. It soon becomes clear that rather than investigating grief in isolation, Bruner has written about life with grief as an omnipresent but secondary character.

This is achieved with a level of candour that manages to take the Thundercat alter ego, as over-the-top and cartoonish as it is, and portray it delicately, honestly and believably. This level of emotional verité is no mean feat, especially when it is carried off through such absurd lyrics as: “I may be covered in cat hair, but I still smell good”.

Thrillingly, ‘It Is What It Is’ also brings a strange brew of features to the table. Fair Chance, for example, sees Bruner joined by Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B, who surprises with the maturity of his performance as he detaches himself completely from his larger-than-life BasedGod persona.

Thundercat tenderly brings out the best in the artists around him, which alchemically produces magic when those artists are of the calibre of Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino, all of whom help to make Black Qualls an instant classic. Far from the mundanity suggested by its title, ‘It Is What It Is’ findsThundercat taking a confident stride forward, solidifying his standing as a truly great artist.

Thundercat Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu October 08 2020 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy
Fri October 09 2020 - LONDON Roundhouse
Sat October 10 2020 - LONDON Roundhouse

Click here to compare & buy Thundercat Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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