Tyler, The Creator Wolf(Odd Future LLC) Buy it from Insound
The “I’m successful now” album has always been a staple of modern music. Everyone eventually does it, some more arrogantly than others. Occasionally it turns out to be pretty good, even though it’s basically a middle finger to the listener, and almost impossible to relate to for the average listener who listens on their daily commute to their 9-5 job to someone moan about being rich and the wrong type of fans daring to talk to them. By all rights, the “I’m successful now” album should be a hideous thing, though it ends up being a liberating position for the artists. Because they’re now proven money making musicians, they get some freedom. This is where the bad and good split; the people who still have something to say manage to do something decent and the ones who peaked too early fade away.
Wolf falls into the first category. With the extra freedom, Tyler, The Creator’s gone all personal and looked to his influences. Slater hits on the obvious critical response that Wolf was going to receive, but it’s worth remarking on how he’s moved from 'kill people, burn shit, fuck school' to letting a little bit of emotion show. Huge fans of Bastard and Goblin shouldn’t worry, though, because the acerbic sarcasm of tracks like Radical are still present on Wolf. I mentioned Slater before, a track full of irony which will inevitably be misunderstood by some idiot who refuses to believe that a musician might say something that isn’t what they think. Cowboy has a similar style - Tyler’s raps crescendo time and time again to the point at which you expect them to explode with anger, then instead there’ll be a joke about Frank Ocean coming out or the track will jump into a catchy hook. For all you people who only ever liked Yonkers, you’ll probably like Cowboy. And Pigs. You’ll like Pigs too.
Much has been made of Wolf being a change in direction for Tyler, but it’s not like Dylan going electric or Kid A. Like I said, his lyrics aren’t wholly different and some of the tracks still have that same dirty electronic sound. Having said that, there’s a lot more diversity in the sound of the album, and it’s there that Wolf immediately shines. While lots of other rappers hit on a sound and exploit it over the course of the album, Wolf doesn’t have that instantly recognisable noise to it. It’s probably because Tyler’s still in a transitional period, still finding that sound.
What it results in is a bit or variety: there’s laid back low key affairs like Answer and IFHY, which call to mind M83 and show Tyler’s interest in American indie bands; there’s high tension pieces like Domo 23 or Tamale; and piano led numbers complete with xylophone and synthesizers like Treehome95, which features Erykah Badu, rushing your ears straight back to Baduizm. That track’s almost completely out of place, being entirely focused on that gorgeous voice of hers, though I challenge anyone to care about that when you’re listening to it. Frank Ocean makes a similarly great guest appearance (as he always does) on Slater, where he manages to make the most mundane phrases ('I just wanna ride my bike') sound amazing and deeply spiritual. Never before has the word “handlebars” sounded so beautiful. Treehome95 is a contrast to the next track, Tamale, which hits you straight away with a wail, then brings in some aggressive percussion which bounces around, leading Tyler’s flow to do the same. It’s an entirely abrasive sound that’s easy to hate when you first hear it, but somehow it grows on you. It’s still kinda intensely annoying, yet impossible to dismiss. The only worthless track on Wolf is Parking Lot, which essentially serves as an advert for Odd Future’s show Loiter Squad. I’d say the same about Trashwang, but it’d serve a purpose if you wanted to annoy your neighbours. It’s the obligatory, bring all your mates in song, and those are never any good.
It’s for the beats that Tyler will get the most praise for, so hopefully people won’t overlook Answer. This is an entirely personal thing for me, so I’ll try to keep this the right side of self-indulgent and hope it comes across as a bit of personality rather than a bit soppy and dull. Answer’s first verse is the closest any singer’s ever gotten to showing what it feels like to not know your father. It juggles all the feelings that pop into your head when you think of this person that you don’t know at all - there’s the nerves of wanting to get in touch somehow and get to know them, and then there’s the anger at the absence and the weird realisation that you’ve turned out the way you are because of their actions and decisions while recognising the people who’ve done everything you’d expect from your father, and more. All that fury then drops to the inescapable urge to know them. I didn’t expect to be moved by Tyler when I said I’d review Wolf. Anyway, sorry about that detour.
The album covers are all pretty awesome, too.5 April, 2013 - 04:18 — James McKenna