Previously a member of both a boyband who scored a minor German hit in the early 00s and Los Angeles skate-punk outfit Suicidal Tendencies, it’s little surprise that singer-bassist Stephen Bruner is much less of a chin-stroker than his Brainfeeder label mates.
Indeed, despite the presence of long-time collaborator Flying Lotus, his second album under the guise of Thundercat, Apocalypse, certainly isn’t averse to the concept of traditional song structures and tangible pop melodies.
The hedonistic funk of lead single, “Oh Sheit It’s X,” is perhaps the closest his label has ever got to a fully-fledged party anthem. Following in the footsteps of Daft Punk’s recent opus, “Without You” suggests we’re in the midst of an unlikely 70s-inspired yacht-rock revival. Meanwhile, the stunning closer “Message For Austin,” sounds like a James Bond theme given a late 90s neo-soul makeover.
Thundercat’s falsetto croon also makes Apocalypse a much more accessible affair than his regular cohorts’ idiosyncratic output. On “Heartbreaks + Setbacks,” a lush fusion of languid bass-lines and disjointed jazz-hop beats, he could be mistaken for R&B’s man of the moment Miguel.
Elsewhere, on the melancholy-drenched electro-soul of opener “Tenfold,” the first of many tributes to a late musician friend Austin Peralta, his voice recalls the fragile intensity of How To Dress Well.
Of course with Lotus in tow, there was always going to be a couple of ambient glitchy soundscapes. But as ambitious as the underwater psychedelia of “The Life Aquatic” and freeform jazz of “Lotus & The Jondy” both are, it’s here where the album succumbs to the kind of self-indulgence that it otherwise so effortlessly steers clear of.
Of course, Thundercat wouldn’t be where he is today without the guidance of the acclaimed beatmaker. But the surprisingly tender and hook-laden Apocalypse suggests he has now outgrown his mentor to the point where he would be better off going it alone for album number three.