There’s something contradictory about the BROCKHAMPTON appeal. The fiery anachronisms of their work always contrasted well with their thoughtfulness and their careful eye for aesthetics and presentation. Their "SATURATION" trilogy presented this attitude at a white-hot pinnacle. However, their current album, "GINGER" (what was once set to release as "PUPPY" until they had to let go of heavily prominent member, Ameer) represents something quite different; less "SATURATION" and more MATURATION. Much like previous output, "iridescence", it gives a lot to unpack.
"GINGER" (to me) represents a band looking inward for solutions that their current situation has given them. It labors under the strain of their newfound fame and the impossible to avoid hold of one of their stronger members, Ameer Vann. It’s a messy introspection, super raw in places and filled with a different kind of emotionality from their previous work. There’s less of the pure fire of bangers like "SWEET" or "GOLD", but those kinds of songs just wouldn’t fit on this album, which is probably due to the tragic removal of Ameer from the group. On "GINGER", these are replaced with an almost contemplative interpolation of gospel and Latin influenced R’n’B, giving it a looser and edgier feel in places while still retaining the classic BROCKHAMPTON sheen. The results are honest and compelling, but weirdly enough, also messy. This works on the album though.
The opener, "NO HALO" sets the scene. Melancholic and uncertain, it’s dramatically low key for a BROCKHAMPTON opener and it’s a little jarring. The religion referencing lyrics are buoyant and repentant, the production is sparse but cramped. in comparison to the moody "iridescence", it sets up for an album of sincere redemption and doubt, something that while isn’t easy to listen to, is cathartic and rewarding.
One of the closest things to a single the album has is "BOY BYE", one of the few of the more energetic tracks on the album, it’s sinister plucked beat lets the band flex out in a more traditional BROCKHAMPTON style, but retains that melancholy.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a lyric that’s not grappling with something dark; the feeling of being lost, left out, loveless and abandoned permeates the album, even the Slowthai feature, "HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU" is bristling with the kind of aggression that’s rooted in this same feeling. The gloomy beat propelling itself until it collapses into noise that links perfectly with the slowly evolving eclectic gospel of "ST. PERCY".
It’s impossible to ignore the religious themes towards the end of the album and appropriately guide some of the strongest emotional moments. Those New Orleans funeral brass instrumentals on "IF YOU PRAY RIGHT" outright collapse into true heavenly rawness, making a beat that sorta jumps from bouncy SATURATION style beat work and leads it down a more contemplative and ascending road.
It leads perfectly into one of the more important tracks of the album, "DEARLY DEPARTED", a real point of catharsis for the story the group is telling on the album that rises from a low key, muted soul ballad into this angsty, cleansing lyrical release that sees the soulful beat turn into delay, noise, anger and a studio storm out.
It’s emotional and puts a lot of perspective of where the band is right now, that feeling of being lost or stunned by their position and finding connections within that gloom, something that title track, "GINGER" and track 10, "BIG BOY" do a good job of highlighting.
"GINGER" as an album is a pretty tough listen in places. There’s a lot of attitude and bitterness throughout, and the ever-present contradictions of the band have this time resulted in a more muted and cold album in comparison to their earlier output. This isn’t to say that it isn’t a good album, however, The high points alone are worth listening to. I’m sure for someone interested in the band’s story this is a key point, being less ragged and more sure of itself than "iridescence" ever was. The meat of the album is in the really strong emotionality and honesty in content. "GINGER" is a brilliant picture of transition, although it is unfortunate that we won't know if "PUPPY" will ever see the light of day.
Ultimately, my confusion about the album comes from the uncertainty that the album is presenting. I’d love for "GINGER" to be more cohesive and to flow better, the performances to be less muted and more on par with what "SATURATION" presented, but I guess that’s the point. The honesty in this album alone is worth some time for, it’s not their best release by far, but it’s something necessary and something truly worth unpacking.
Read about the removal of Ameer Vann here
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