Published Apr 15, 2015Tyler, the Creator's gradual musical maturation can be observed on each of his studio albums since the shock-rap of Bastard engaged angst-fuelled audiences in 2009. With 2013's Wolf, the California emcee broke away from vivid rhymes of violence to explore a variety of different themes, backing it with some of his most accomplished production to date. Further growth seemed imminent after he billed Cherry Bomb as the record on which he made "the music I listen to," though it proves to a be a tough task; Tyler, it seems, listens to a wide variety of music.
No stranger to R&B, soul and jazz, tracks in these veins highlight Tyler's ear for arrangement and composition. The Roy Ayers-assisted highlight "Find Your Wings" (a theme brought up elsewhere on the record) hits the mark with its opening jam section and breezy groove, a quality also present in the first half of "2Seater" and within the neo-soul of Charlie Wilson collaboration "Fucking Young." However, these moments of souled-out bliss are only temporary, pushed aside by jarring, more aggressive fare reportedly stemming from his interest in the music of Death Grips. In the case of "Find Your Wings," it is unfairly sandwiched between the blown-out sonics of "Pilot," the horrendous mixing job of the title track and a fleeting interlude — an issue of sequencing that could have perhaps been helped along by an overarching narrative such as his previous records employed.
These louder tracks are done no favours by the process by which they were engineered: compressed and distorted in a fashion that leaves Tyler's vocals largely inaudible. He's relatively quiet under the repetitive riffing of guitar-driven "Deathcamp," and his vocal volume only worsens through "Pilot" before the breakbeat of "Cherry Bomb" gets turned up past any sensible decibel level. There are moments when Tyler's vocals are a treat to be heard — especially his tongue-in-cheek finger pointing at rap music's wealthy figures on "The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah…" and "Keep Da O's," and his humorous collaboration with Kanye West and Lil Wayne on "Smuckers" — but there are moments that will leave listeners wondering why he bothered recording vocals at all, if they're going to be this quiet.
"I don't like to follow the rules, and that's just who I am," Tyler cheekily states on the opening track. That mindset and approach are nothing new, but Tyler's moments of flight on Cherry Bomb are sadly no more frequent than ones in which he's falling. (Odd Future)