It’s almost impossible to approach Goblin, the latest album from Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator, without any kind predisposed stance. Whether it’s the huge amount of press and hype which currently surrounds the group, or the outward, confrontational personalities of its members, Odd Future set themselves out to provoke, excite and divide. With the group’s profile now at an all-time high, then, for many Goblin will a make or break landmark in their career.
In many ways, this record also marks a huge progression for OFWGKTA. For starters, it will see a physical release through reputable and reliable label XL, currently home to the likes of Adele, The XX and Radiohead. But there are also perhaps unexpected advances in terms of its content, as Tyler continues his growth into one of the most fascinating and engaging individuals of a generation. Personally, I’ve long straddled the fence of Odd Future’s output to date, but I’m happy to invest fully in the collective as a phenomenon, and one with the potential to produce something special.
Goblin, then, finds Tyler in a new found state of self-awareness, and that’s understandable from his position in the centre of the musical universe. If his last album, Bastard, was a rowdy statement of intent punctuated by gags about rape and violence, Goblin is far more affected piece of music, almost schizophrenic in nature. From the word go Tyler is at pains to address his critics, re-iterating that his music is fiction and vocalising a resentment for being labelled horrorcore, and indeed homophobic.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a largely confrontational record, but it’s also very clear Tyler wants to add more strings to his bow. He’s even included a couple of almost straight up love songs on this record, almost as if to prove his own humanity. These prove to be some of the more effective moments on the record, particularly ‘She’ with it’s memorable, sing-a-long hook by Odd Future’s resident R&B singer Frank Ocean. Lyrically, I’d argue that Tyler’s biggest influence is early Eminem. From the apparently random celebrity bashing on ‘Yonkers’, to the public service announcements and rousing shock choruses such as ‘Kill people, burn shit, fuck school’ on ‘Radicals’. The two also share a similar mischievous humour in their delivery, often veiled by aggression.
Where Tyler perhaps differs to those that have come before him is that Goblin is entirely self-produced, aside from one contribution from Left Brain on ‘Transylvania’. Those expecting an album of ‘Yonkers’ and ‘Sandwiches’ style beats will be disappointed, as these stand out as easily the most accessible songs on the record. Although vocal in his love for the likes of Clipse and Waka Flocka Flame, Tyler’s own productions aren’t necessarily even influenced by hip hop. Instead the album is mostly made up of a mixture of eerie synth arrangements and jarring stabs of distorted bass and drums. These are probably his most intricate productions to date, though, and he throws at them a range of pitch alterations and studio trickery.
I suppose the question on most people’s minds will inevitably be, ‘does this album live up to its hype’? While the answer to this question is perhaps a no, it’s almost certainly the wrong question to be asking, as by its very nature hype is a grossly exaggerated reaction. Following the path of Tyler, The Creator so far, though, Goblin is an album that meets expectations and expands on the ground that he has covered. Moments of inspiration flow regularly through this overly long and at times testing record, but I have no doubts that Tyler is an artist worth persevering with. Yes, it’s rough around the edges, but the most exciting things in life are never clean cut.