Bassist Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner has been on a peculiar path. For a moment during the early 2000s, he was in No Curfew, a boy band successful enough to be included on German hits compilations beside Destiny's Child and Gorillaz. He then joined his brother Ron, a Grammy-winning drummer, in the long-running skatepunk band Suicidal Tendencies. A few years later, while still in ST, Thundercat initiated a long-term interface with the black avant-garde network; J*Davey's version of Frank Zappa's "Dirty Love," Erykah Badu's "The Cell," Sa-Ra's "Love Czars," Shafiq Husayn's "Cheeba," and Bilal's "Levels," among dozens of other cuts, all benefited greatly from his knotty, tremulous basslines. Thundercat can also be heard throughout Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma. That album's dreamy, astral "MmmHmm," featuring not just his bass but his becalming falsetto, was a precursor to the simultaneously offhanded and life-affirming sound of The Golden Age of Apocalypse, his first album. Though Thundercat was born in the mid-'80s, he's clearly inspired by spaced-out jazz fusion and R&B from the previous decade, with the spirit of George Duke's six MPS albums (1973-1976) almost always present. Even without the introduction's use of "For Love (I Come Your Friend)" and a later cover of that very song, it would be detectable. In fact, Bruner sounds like he's attempting to clone Duke's blissful and easygoing voice, yet he's more skilled and never strains. He calls upon many of the musicians he has helped in the recent past, including everyone listed above, as well as additional members of the connected Mochilla, Brainfeeder, and Plug Research families -- Eric Coleman, Miguel-Atwood Ferguson, and Austin Peralta, among others. Several cuts are instrumental workouts, unpredictable and flagrantly noodle-y. Others venture into tranquil folk-soul and soft jazz-pop; for all the animated instrumental flexing on display, it's those atmospheric and simpler songs that move the most. The best of all is "Walkin'," half-Todd Rundgren, half-Melodies-era Jan Hammer Group -- a casual, rubbery, heart-on-sleeve ditty with Badu doubling Bruner during the "la-la-la" chorus. This is unequivocally recommended for anyone who owns anything featuring Thundercat, enjoys '70s bass-playing wizzes (Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Alphonso Johnson, Paul Jackson), and who has ever spent half an hour listening to the first minute of the Crusaders' "Cosmic Reign."
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman