Talking About Thundercat’s ‘Apocalypse’ With Funk Masters

The issue isn’t how is Thundercat’s new album, Apocalypse (spoiler: it’s great). Instead, the issue is what is Thundercat’s new album? Is it space soul? Alien pop? The joyous return of jazz fusion? Bandleader Stephen Bruner zig zags song-to-song between each of these sounds with equal facility. But at some point — maybe it was the ecstatic Prince homage “Oh Sheit It’s X” that did it — Apocalypse started to coalesce as a funk album in my mind because it aligns itself much more closely with the grand concepts of classic funk, the cosmos of Funkadelic and the hellscapes of Curtis Mayfield. There is also real, profound loss at the album’s core. And it’s Bruner’s touching, humanist response to that loss that makes Apocalypse a truly great funk album, in the grand tradition of Slave and Funkadelic and Sly Stone.

I floated my thesis to some fellow music writers, though, and they were nonplussed: “I never really thought of Thundercat’s new stuff as funk, per se,” one replied. “It’s more like a Jaco Pastorius/Mahavishnu Orchestra freak-out.” I didn’t buy it.

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