Review: Tyler, The Creator - Wolf

Tyler, The Creator isn't homophobic. He swears. He just uses the word "faggot" a lot. A lot. Perhaps I would have counted exactly how many times the word is spoken, shouted or rapped on the 22-year-old's much discussed third album, but to do so would be to miss the point of it entirely. Tyler also raps about smoking weed a lot, not only on Wolf, but also its predecessor, Goblin and its predecessor, Bastard, - the three, by the way, come together as a concept of sorts, however untenably - but Tyler himself doesn't smoke. So appropriately with Wolf, there's an undeniable sense of bipolarity. Lyrically as well as musically; there are 18 tracks here and the pick of them are exhibitions in aggressive emotion as well as in nonchalant hysterics. 

Indeed, Wolf does not lack Tyler's enthusiasm to shock. The first words uttered on Jamba are "Fuck you" and in the space 1 minute and 51 seconds, Tyler crams in the word "fuck" no less than 14 times. But even by this point, the whole concept of "ooh, naughty words" has become so tedious that Wolf is crying out for something different. Lead single Domo23 marries shrill synths with Tyler's passive-aggressive rapping so efficiently that the last thing on your mind are the lyrics. This isn't to say that the arbitrary nature of them aren't fitting. "Wait a goddamn second / I'm tripping balls, David Beckham" doesn't mean anything, but it's almost miraculous that it works anyway. "Just like Rodney King's swimming lessons" is contextually apropos of nothing, but it's Tyler being as coarse as you'd expect. 

Answer breathes new life into Wolf, its pretty female vocals serving as a kindred veneer to its subtle strings as Tyler calls his father a faggot, bringing back around that sense of bipolarity. Slater is a bit of a dud, with the originally enticing Frank Ocean spot merely contributing six sung words during the interlude; the crux is about as memorable as its repetitive synths. Ocean contributes infinitely more on 48, on which Tyler proves his strengths with a catchy hook and phonaesthetic verses. It's hard not to fantasize about a record in which Tyler ignores his divulgent, indulgent interruptions, which Colossus exemplifies. Memorable it is not. 

PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer thankfully is a stronger suite, but its fusion of three completely separate tracks could be done without. In fact, the first part of it could be discarded completely. The latter two are two of the highlights of the album, with Campfire painting an eerie ambience with its use of children singing and Bimmer almost painting the opposite picture: "Pop some Tame Impala" Tyler incompatibly sings. IFHY is easily the record's crowning achievement, blending those aforementioned contradictory traits so perfectly that Tyler transcends himself. The sharp synths compliment the airy hook wonderfully and Pharell doubly compliments the track with a brilliant verse as Tyler stumbles upon some profound poetry in "The sky is falling girl, let's try to catch it". 

The following seven tracks feature no more than two moments of memorability: The first, Trashwang, is a hectic interchange of Odd Future features with only Lucas 'the white guy from Odd Future' Vercetti's studio debut falling flat - the rest are solid, and the hook has some surprising staying power. Tamale, meanwhile, feels like a homage to M.I.A.'s bizarre avant-garde convention defiance. It's Tyler at his most barbaric and daring, but it comes together as a  worthy climax with Tallulah Willis - Bruce Willis's daughter - lending a piercing, droning quality to Tyler's raps. Too often, though, this albums fails to do anything or go anywhere. Cowboy, Awkward and Rusty fall flat and can't even fade into obscurity because they stand out too prominently as reminders of the album's inconsistency, even veiling standout lyrical moments, such as "Here, take a goddamn picture / And tell Spike Lee he's a goddamn nigger". 

Nonetheless, Wolf is Tyler is at his fundamental best. Its highs are unyielding and tenacious by nature, while its lows are as forgetful as the many groups and members of Odd Future. But there are too many lows. Compressed, Wolf could easily be bumped up to an 8, even a 9, but its impressive moments are currently too few and far between. It is at times brilliant, and there aren't any complaints on the side of shock value or vulgarity, which the majority of us are unfazed by; only blandness, which Wolf has in abundance. 


Friday, 5 April 2013

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