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Tyler, the Creator, the loud, inappropriate, all-caps-tweeting, innovative, trend-setting head of the Odd Future Collective (short for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, a name only half as outrageous as some of the collective’s music) released his third official album on April 13. The new LP is titled after the boyish low-risk prank item: “Cherry Bomb.” Tyler has been prolific throughout his relatively short career (read: less than a decade), and has collaborated, produced and been featured on dozens of songs and a plethora of other Odd Future releases. Tyler’s biggest success could arguably be attributed to his media appearance. He has started a clothing line, inspiring an entire scene of West Coast skater-infused dress. His musical style, defined by minimalistic synths and horror-movie soundtrack chord progressions — dubbed “horror-rap” — has been distinctly influential in the entire hip-hop industry. Tyler’s achievements are even more remarkable, however, because of their juxtaposition with a distinct but prominent feature in his work — his abrasive, juvenile attitude.
The primary feature of Tyler’s work as a musician has been his utter and complete rejection of any societal standards of conduct for high-profile artists. He has been outspoken about his unfaltering love of skateboards and cartoons. His music often takes a first-person perspective of some violent villain, describing with bemusement, rape, torture and murder. Tyler has always defended his music, claiming his work is akin to horror movies. He has also been outspoken about his persona as incredibly inflammatory; he intends to inspire controversy for the sake of controversy itself. At the same time, when interviewed about this behavior, Tyler is erratic and frenetic. He can never quite seem to sit still for a minute, even when interviewed in the welcoming environment of the Arsenio Hall Show. In short, Tyler’s public appearance is that of a child making noise.
It is with this sentiment that Tyler opens “Cherry Bomb,” as he says on the album’s first track “DEATHCAMP”: “I don’t like to follow the rules / And that’s just who I am / I hope you understand.” What follows is 60 minutes of the same angry adolescent apathy that has been present in his previous work. Tyler invokes brilliant metaphors, in one instance comparing himself to seating areas on an airplane in “PILOT”: “I’m in first class but I feel like coach.” Other lyrics tell of his emotionally complex romantic relationships: on “BLOW MY LOAD,” he raps, “I don’t want you thinking I love you cause I stay / Girl I really like you and happy we got laid.” On “F*CKING YOUNG/PERFECT,” he speaks of the impossibility of love altogether: “Cause girl you’re perfect, but you’re too f*cking young.”
But even though Tyler’s subject matter doesn’t seem to have matured, his musical aspirations have grown considerably. Tyler has been shifting away from the stripped-down instrumentation of earlier Odd Future work in favor of musically complex instrumentals to back his too-large-for-this-room persona. “Cherry Bomb” attempts to draw together the wide range of influences in Tyler’s holistic music repertoire. “Cherry Bomb” blends punk and jazz, soul and electronic. The album is filled with heavily distorted heavy punk guitars. Other tracks are backed by complex smooth jazz, played by a host of talented musicians whom Tyler has recruited for the record. Meanwhile, the same synthesizer sounds, prominent in earlier Odd Future releases, are still present. Tyler creates a record that musically is still incredibly personal. “Cherry Bomb” sounds unmistakably like a record distinctly produced by Tyler, the Creator. “SMUCKERS,” which comes toward the end of the record and features hip-hop giants Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, blends Tyler’s slow-then-fast aggressive rap style with whimsical instrumentation, making it sound like a trademark Odd Future track. Tyler is incredibly territorial in this regard: his music is his, and it will follow his musical vision.
But even the ambitious music of the record follows the same short attention span with which Tyler approaches most things; the album is quick, ever-changing and highly stylized. “Cherry Bomb” is defined by the juvenile attitude of Tyler as a person, or perhaps, as a persona. The LP is comprised of the ideas of an incredibly inspired musician, one who can’t quite hold himself down for long enough to finish a sentence. “Cherry Bomb” is a record of incredibly lush half-thoughts — each undeniably expansive in its reach, but thin in its grasp.