Since his rise to fame as leader of the infamous LA Collective Odd Future, Tyler, The Creator has undergone many changes, from cockroach-eating creep, through to an imaginary middle aged golfer named Thurnis Haley. However, no transformation has been so sudden and apparent as the new man we’re presented with in his latest offering, Cherry Bomb.
Album opener Deathcamp immediately displays the change in direction – thrashing guitars play an incessant riff as Tyler yells his modus operandi: “I don’t wanna follow the rules, that’s just who I am”. Its the kind of sonic jolt M.I.A. delivered with Born Free, daring us to forget everything we knew about the artist we thought we knew.
Pilot continues this punk aesthetic: distorted synthesisers, growling bass and constant drum rolls pound before the drums fall back to be replaced by warm soulful piano chords and The Internet‘s Syd Tha Kyd singing Tyler’s thoughts. “I don’t want to crash, will someone break my fall, I just want to find my wings” – this theme of growth and finding freedom is repeated throughout the album.
Tyler’s sledgehammer-shock lyrics about the desire to “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” seem like a thing of the past, instead replaced with words of positivity and encouragement. “Find Your Wings” sees Kali Uchis trading harmonies with Syd over a Tyler’s jazzy lounge production, reminiscent of Roy Ayers. This overtly happy track, filled with a live brass section, strings and lyrics about rainbows further cements Tyler’s re-invention.
A deeper look at the title track and ode to suicide Cherry Bomb (which on the surface seems to be a mash up of hip-hop, punk, screaming and something from The Prodigy‘s nightmares) reveals the message of having the confidence to kill the bad aspects of your personality and reinvent yourself. “Tie the knot, kick the chair, float in the air,“ he screams defiantly over what is sure to be a future anthem (if your ears can handle the distortion).
However, the album isn’t without its flaws. Pharrell collaboration Keep Da O’s sounds like pure filler, and tracks like Run and Smuckers (feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne) feel somewhat out of place. However, for every bad song there are excellent moments like the summer paedophile jam Fucking Young which reveals rare glimpse into Tyler’s real life vulnerability (he tells us this story of underage love is “dead ass true, she texted me last night”).
Unsurprisingly, Cherry Bomb is a challenging record in many ways – it flits between punk, rock, rap and soul, but that’s no bad thing. The new positive vibes and stellar production means that Tyler may finally become The Creator he’s long been promising. As for the man’s own thoughts? He tells PressPLAY: “I’ve noticed the people who mostly listen to rap only like certain songs, which I understand, I just hope them giving this [record] a chance allows them to open their ear palette just a tad bit and explore. TELL THE WORLD ABOUT THIS.”
Something tells us he won’t need our help in doing so.
Cherry Bomb by Tyler, The Creator can be ordered here.