Friday, 20 May 2011

Album review: Goblin - Tyler the Creator (XL)

From Elvis to Eminem via the Sex Pistols, Beastie Boys and Guns n' Roses, controversy is a fairly bankable marketing approach in the music industry. It certainly seems to be paying off for Odd Future (or Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All to give them their full name). The LA Hip Hop collective have certainly generated plenty of column inches if not sales as yet. Their dark raps about faggots and rape aren't to everybody's taste but many music lovers acknowledge that they have a certain appeal with their atmospheric production and innovative approach to spreading their sound (up to now free via their tumblr site). The lyrical content issue reverts back to the old chestnut about whether they are utterly misogynistic or whether they are portraying a gothic fantasy (see also Ice T and Eminem). Personally I find it a bit distasteful and unnecessary as there are plenty of ways of keeping it real without reverting to homophobia and sexual aggression (Public Enemy managed it as did the Stooges) but I guess that's being 18 for you.

The undisputed leader of the crew is Tyler the Creator. His Bastard LP was an immediate darkcore hip hop classic. I loved its cinematic production and dark gravelly monotone raps and so was most excited to hear the first Odd Future release proper (e.g. on CD) Goblin. The album effectively already has two hit singles. Yonkers and Sandwiches have been doing the rounds for some time on the net and Sandwiches was performed in their memorable debut TV performance on the Jimmy Fallon show.

Goblin sets out its stall from the outset 'I'm not a fucking role model' Tyler tells his therapist alter ego, the pitched down Dr TC. The wonderful Yonkers highlights his self awareness ' I'm a fucking walking paradox' he proclaims over Wu style beats and deep bass. Indeed he is, on one hand he is deeply offensive, and yet, throughout Goblin he hints at a vulnerability and insecurity about his place in the world. He needn't worry - he certainly has the talent to reach out to his own age group. You can almost smell the putrid stench of a Reading Festival moshpit on Radicals as he intones the Odd Future Mantra 'Kill people, burn shit, fuck school'. This might just be the best track on the album especially when it suddenly breaks with a lovely coda that wouldn't be out of place on an Aerial Pink Graffiti record.

Its sad then, that after this electric start, things go rapidly downhill. Transylvania is bland while Nightmare is one dimensional. Tron Cat is better although the claim 'i'm snorting Hitler's ashes' shows Tyler's ability to break yet another taboo but its only when we reach track 9 Sandwiches, where things pick up again. Its no coincidence that this is one of the tracks here with a stronger melody than others which are essentially skits or rants over beats.

Tyler does himself no favours with two tracks Boppin' Bitch and Bitch Suck Dick which reveal his misogyny - this stuff is really tiresome and also warrants suggestions that the album lacks focus in places (it is far too long). Tyler is undeniably a talent but needs to reign himself in in both subject matter and delivery. Window is a perfect example, its the longest track on the album and deals with Tyler's ruminations on his new found fame 'at school I was zero, now I'm every boy's hero' but there is little in the track to warrant repeated listens.

Surprisingly, one of the best bits of the record is instrumental. Au79 provides a welcome respite from the soul searching and misery. The final quarter of the album in general picks up a little (with references to  lost Odd Future associate Earl in abundance) but the record as a whole is rather an anti-climax after such a promising start and nowhere near as coherent as Bastard. Undoubtedly the best tracks are the ones with a more melodic approach (some of the singing from collaborator Hodgy Beats is superb).

Tyler isn't the finished article for sure but his talent is undeniable and Odd Future remains one of the most exciting developments in hip hop in recent years.

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