Tyler, The Creator | Goblin (XL)

I believe Tyler intentionally made Goblin hard to listen to all the way through, as if it would be a badge of honor to succeed.




If you’ve somehow been avoiding the buzz – good and bad – surrounding Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (lovingly abbreviated OFWGKTA) and their ringleader, Tyler, The Creator, it would be hard to fill you in with a few sentences. There honestly isn’t a genre I would use to describe their style, as it includes elements of indie rap, punk, and electronic, among others. Some have used the term horrorcore, a genre of rap that has never received much attention because it isn’t very good. Generally, it is music created only to shock and push limits, and artistically, Odd Future is light years ahead of the majority of horrorcore artists. Tyler vehemently denies this classification several times on Goblin. While the collective has been compared to groups as diverse as Wu-Tang Clan and The Sex Pistols, I think it’s impossible to extract anything more than slight influence. And as you listen to Tyler’s second album, Goblin, it’s clear that this schizophrenic album is teetering manically between repulsive and genius.

What makes Goblin unique is that it is all over the place but somehow incredibly focused at the same time. Readers are certainly aware that I prefer tight, cohesive albums with songs that don’t meander, but that isn’t a description I’d give this album. It begins and focuses on Tyler’s meetings with a therapist as he struggles with a plethora of issues. At times, he sounds like a 20 year old, cracking jokes and unable to hold a straight face. However, more frequently he sounds much older than his 20 years, due to his gravelly voice and anger and frustration. As seen on his first album, Bastard, Tyler grew up with an absentee father and lacked many of the pleasures afforded to even middle-class families. As a result he’s become very bitter, and Goblin reflects that. The whole group has received notoriety for their lyrics, live shows, and conflicts (most recently with Tegan & Sara). This album fits in with that reputation; there is plenty here that makes even me —a long-time hip-hop and horror movie fan—cringe.

I believe Tyler intentionally made Goblin hard to listen to all the way through, as if it would be a badge of honor to succeed. In this way, it reminds me of many albums from my younger days, such as the first few Marilyn Manson records. I admit that it took me even a few times to reach the end, and still there are several tracks I often choose to skip. However, it’s hard to ignore the superb standouts, and the production and lyrics are brilliant in many places. “Yonkers” is the track getting the most attention, and deservedly so. Its futuristic, slow droning beat allows Tyler to prove his worth as an MC. A majority of the album is definitely this way, especially on the tracks “Goblin,” “Analog,” and “Sandwitches,” which actually came to my attention through an outstanding performance on Jimmy Fallon. That led to my interest in the group and the album, and although they cleaned up for TV, the album version isn’t too abrasive and is worth a listen. Unfortunately, the fact is that Tyler remains fascinated with the overdone, as seen on “Radicals” and “Windows.” These seven-minute-plus long tracks say what they need to say in about half of that and then drone on, which results in the songs being skipped nearly every time through.

To be fair, many songs on Goblin do stand out, and the album is a cohesive, well-planned effort, despite its seemingly intentional schizophrenia. But it is difficult to get through, and in this day and age, that’s a problem. In the digital era we can just grab the tracks we like and delete or ignore the ones we don’t. I have a feeling that, although Tyler has made an album that really should be heard all the way through, many fans will latch onto the standout tracks and ignore the storytelling excellence. If it sounds up your alley, it’s worth your time to see what the hype is about and make your own decisions. But it still remains foul, overdone, and tedious at times, along with brilliant and creative. Goblin won’t ever make my heavy rotation, but it’s so unique and fascinating that I can’t help but listen. B | Brett Berliner

RIYL: El-P, Immortal Technique, The Clipse


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