Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tyler, The Creator - Cherry Bomb Review

Tyler, The Creator has never been one to sacrifice his artistic merits to being liked. His previous trilogy saw lewd remarks spewing at every edge whilst mature thematic elements crept up in corners that offered hope. This was best seen on Wolf, where downtempo ballads about his disdain towards his father, his obsessive fans, and the crack epidemic sweeping through black America played like an artist attempting to detach from his 'shock rap' persona. Alas, here we are. Where Tyler, The Creator takes one leap forward he takes two steps back crafting his most immature album to date, surprising listeners who believed his gradual lack of affiliation with Odd Future would mean for a more serious tone. The disparity between him and Earl Sweatshirt's latest, I Don't Like Shit, make it clear why the two have begun to split. The former thriving under happiness, relishing with what he has, the latter receding into the darkness swelling into a depressed state. Each of them though, no one can deny, come off as sincere and honest. Tyler's tactics on Cherry Bomb see an escalation in production quality to coincide with a disappointing rise in his ego-filled persona that manifests with each critic opposing his decisions. 

The most obvious derailment to Tyler's music aesthetic is the sound itself, purposely, as lamented by the artist himself, mastered and mixed horribly. His vocals, especially on many verses, is drowned out with an overblown bass substituting its place at the forefront while choppy song structures and grating noises liken the album to something you'd hear blasting two cars over whilst parked at a red light with all your windows rolled up. The sound bears a resemblance to Death Grips, a band currently influencing Tyler, but not in quality rather mere attempted reconstruction. While there's times MC Ride is swallowed by the sound it's done with class and is still, surprisingly, sonically-pleasing. The finished product of Cherry Bomb sees Tyler simply driving up the bass and overblowing the decibels, a tactic as cheap as the attempt itself. Not all of the album sounds like its jarringly discordant title track though, tracks like 'Find Your Wings' see soaring synths match wits with trumpets, keyboard melodies, and brittle female vocals. These moments, much like the cowering samples on Yeezus, are beautifully done for the sake of tormenting the listener by resenting picturesque sounds for something more defiant. The problem arises in the abrasion though, where each artist's past history of making peaceful beats must manifest in something raucous, a dilemma Death Grips never faces due to their already aggressive foundations.

Few, if any, can deny Tyler's talents as a producer, and avoiding the looming poor quality of the piece, his instrumental details offer a lot of juicy tidbits. The second half of 'Fucking Young/Perfect' is open, alluring and welcoming with Kali Uchis providing childlike vocals over a brightly-tinged piano and horn arrangement. 'Keep Da O's' recites the momentous chorus of 'Find Your Wings' with more of these easily-digestible sounds in addition to his classic OF synths. And the finale 'Okaga, CA' runs through a gamut of melodic sections and vocal accompaniment that leaves things in a peaceful state. Even the louder tracks have subtle underbellies, the closing moments of 'Pilot' sounds like one of these pristine moments run through a grinder while 'Deathcamp' utilizes a guitar sample from 1971 to mash Tyler's genre-bending influences into a collage. Sometimes though this works against him, namely in Cherry Bomb's nauseous amounts of beat-switches, a tactic used in Hip-Hop to stun listeners with surprise but done here so much that on the 'nth' time you're completely unphased by its intent. There's not a song here, besides the one-minute 'Run,' that fails to emphasize it's constant chaotic approach with an ever-changing sonic palate.

Where Cherry Bomb explodes into a dud though is in Tyler's lyrics, a facet he admits is lacking but being a rapper is one that's hard to ignore. The welcoming message of the entire album is being yourself, accepting who you are so you can "find your wings and fly," which is a sentiment Tyler has been preaching since his stardom and one that will always resonate positively with me. What won't is lackluster rhyme schemes that, apart from a few moments, follow a trivial pattern that add nothing to the song's themselves, along with a handful of poor subject matter. There's the forgettable 'Blow My Load,' which is as aimless and regurgitating as the title implies. Multiple tracks here, from 'Buffalo' to 'The Brown Stains' rely on braggadocios lyrics with Tyler's trademark self-awareness, making constant comments to his real life affairs that he stirs up. He's stated numerous times that he doesn't care much about rapping anymore, and Cherry Bomb makes that abundantly clear, as the lack of variety in topics, centering around a girl he's seeing, devolves itself from Wolf's enticing selection. The best verses here are all from the features, especially Kanye West and Lil Wayne on 'Smuckers,' that reincarnate past versions of these legendary rappers.

For many a large facet of Tyler's albums have been the storyline interwoven between, complex and riveting as it was confusing. Here it's largely absent apart from some hints that it could have taken place prior or after the events of his previous three albums, with those being treated as a movie real life Tyler is watching. It adds nice depth to Cherry Bomb, but in places where hope for a continuation of a story would be there's ego-filled boasts that add nothing long-lasting to the record. Tyler's fourth album is an ambitious record that aimed at collectively smashing his influences together, but without the glue to make the sounds and styles cohesive everything falls apart. If the record was mixed properly and did away with the senseless chaos it utilizes the moments of instrumental beauty Tyler has with regards to Jazz and Soul would be more worth it's while; combining them was foolish, separating them would be gold. The vocal additions he often uses where swift, free-falling melodies occur show a definite improvement in sonic taste, it's just unfortunate that Tyler's ego and lust for offending listeners got in the way. Cherry Bomb's title effectively showcases not just the album's central theme in relation to the girl, but also offers a paradoxical battle between sounds, cherries being sweet and tasty, bomb's offering up aggression and noise. Tyler's latest is too much for its own good. 

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