The West Coast Get Down collective really made their mark with Kamasi Washington’s triple, The Epic. Famously, the sessions for that album resulted in a handful of other albums – in fact they’re still coming; the group set themselves the goal of wasting no time, so every day they turned up and worked on several albums simultaneously. Thundercat was already known, already releasing strong solo works as well as being a high-profile session star, but you really get the feeling that here, with Drunk, he has released his masterpiece; his mini-Epic, 23 songs in 51 minutes.
Them Changes was the highlight of the mini-album, The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam and it’s here again – because it fits the context; in fact when it arrives, towards the end of this infectious, repeat-play set it feels like a highlight but it doesn’t quite tower over the other songs. That’s because there’s magic at every turn, Thundercat’s extrapolating of Jaco Pastorius’ bass-led punk-jazz/cowboy-funk means we get the sort of fusion-y workouts and speed/noise-jazz collages you used to sneak out for a listen on your Frank Zappa and John Zorn records, desperately trying to tell your friends that it wasn’t just muso-nerd stuff. Thundercat’s dreamy vocals help him here, jazz heads, R’n’B devotees, people listening out for the next future-funk feel or caught up in the web of recent takes on quirky twee-pop meets psychedelia (UMO, Whitney, even the recent Flaming Lips) can all find something here, these sinewy grooves, these creamy concoctions.
Just a song or two after sounding like a long lost Zappa showcase we’re in the world of hip-hop groove (A Fan’s Mail) and then an ultra-slow jam (Lava Lamp) and one of the obvious standouts here is Show You The Way, a song that features twin-titans of 80s soft-rock Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald (they co-wrote the Doobies hit, What A Fool Believes), and if it’s pushing it to (re) introduce Loggins as any sort of cool Thundercat sure doesn’t care.
Drunk follows its own logic, has its own logic, that liquid-stroll of bass, warm and bubbly, the effervescent flow of the vocals – it’s bedsit-funk that’s both made for the dance-floor and the soft-lighting of a hipster-hideout; music to take on the town or keep at home for yourself – an album for extroverts and introverts to design their own strut or shuffle to; impossibly cool, calm and clever – it feels like an album for and of 2017, even though some of its elements come from generations earlier and some of the sounds hint at what – still – lies ahead for other artists.
It’s of the now and yet it never feels cloyingly cast as contemporary.
It’s the best album Thundercat’s made. And you get the feeling he could top it next month or next week – certainly next year. Like the Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington albums it’s huge in sonic scope, broad and fascinating. But at the same time as all that Thundercat’s record has an insular warmth, an almost claustrophobic vibe. You hunker down with it, hoping to disappear down inside it. You live with it. And it lives in you. It swallows itself up. And then you too.