Between Apocalypse and Drunk, his second and third albums, bassist Stephen Bruner contributed to a slew of remarkable recordings by fellow Los Angeles dwellers -- Flying Lotus' You're Dead!, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and Untitled Unmastered, Kamasi Washington's The Epic, and Terrace Martin's Velvet Portraits among them. Several months before Bruner picked up a Grammy for "These Walls," off To Pimp a Butterfly, he issued an EP anchored by "Them Changes." His funkiest, sweetest, most vulnerable song, it reappears as the top highlight on Drunk, a fragmentary and scattered program relative to the Thundercat full-lengths that preceded it. Bruner is still fueled by numerous forms that immediately preceded his birth -- smooth soul, soft rock, jazz fusion, synth funk, new wave, all late '70s/early '80s -- and filters them through his soft-hearted, mischievous personality. He surrounds himself with a slightly different cast of old and newer associates, including the first three figures listed above, keyboardist Dennis Hamm, drummer Louis Cole, and producer Sounwave. For better and worse, there's a lot of foolishness occurring here. Bruner dreams about being a cat (replete with meowing background melody), pens a tribute to Japanese pop culture ("Just point me to the Pachinko machines"), and delivers a sarcastic jingle regarding social media fatigue ("I'm out here probably doing the most"). At times, the whimsicality sinks into middle school humor ("Captain Stupido") and misogyny ("Friend Zone"). Love and mortality remain Bruner's strongest subjects, placed on full display in terse but touching ballads like "Lava Lamp," "Jethro," and "3AM." In "Show You the Way," another bright spot, he swaps verses with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, two of his heroes, to swirling and balmy effect. Additional guests Kendrick, Pharrell, and Wiz Khalifa add to the star power, but the main attraction is Bruner's singular combination of tremulous yet fluid bass and aching falsetto.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman