Thom Bullitt – The Cooler King 2 [Album Review]
After the power of Thom Bullitt’s previous EP release, Roses, comes a whole new level of depth in his new album, The Cooler King 2. Hustle, introspection, individualistic uniqueness, yearning for the other, the drive for success and the alcoholic taste of failure, Thom Bullitt opens up another chapter of his life in a more mature outpouring of ten tracks of mostly over four minutes each (bar three of them).
Kicking off with the two more radio-friendly and radio-ready tracks, “The Cooler King” and “Ramblin’ Man,” Contrary to the solemn and calm opening of Roses, “The Cooler King” busts in with an upbeat confidence. Bullitt flexes his uniqueness at the world, with pinpoint-precision understanding of how he differentiates himself from other artists, and masterfully carves our his own space musically, lyrically and artistically from everybody else.
“Ramblin’ Man” is a superb second-track follow-up, where from the immediate strums and licks of the guitar, and the opening hook—”Ridin’ all along, on this long and lonely road, no cash in hand, I’m a ramblin’ man”—it feels as if a mixture of emotions are seeking their way from Bullitt’s heart out to the listener. I expanded on “Ramblin’ Man” in another post, and it still remains my personal favorite on this integrative artwork that blends varying emotions and life experiences into a masterful tapestry.
“Ordinary Average Guy” opens with a hypnotic polyrhythmic hook of classic tube-distorted guitar licking together with a widely-panned vocal delivery. Bullitt expands on his life in Oklahoma, partying with friends in “no fucks given” atmosphere, getting high, listening to music—a steady riding track with a classic feel. Also, look out toward the four-minute mark for a downtempo change-up that catches a completely different wavelength.
The fourth track, “Outlaw,” fills out the instrumental space from the get-go with pianos, string and pad synths, together with the constantly irregular stabs of the hats panning around the audio space while the kicks and snares keep a driving regularity, and Bullitt hooks the listener through the opening with another emotion—fearlessness. The slowed-down gear change in “Outlaw” makes for a wavy new kind of experience. The constant piano ostinato throughout blended with reverberated cymbals, together with guitar and clap entries, all harmonize a new image and feel together with Bullitt’s new angle.
“Oklahoma Sky” reels in an optimistic tone with an experimental approach compared to Bullitt’s other output. Splashes of delayed piano, guitar and string stabs, instruments float around Bullitt’s delivery like clouds in the Oklahoma Sky while Bullitt takes off from his usual rap output to a wide-melodic ranging singing line, doubled and tripled through the spectrum, opened out over the space like the vastness of the sky itself.
The sixth track, “Town Car Muzik 3,” starts much more modestly than every other track on the album. A much more stripped down instrumental synth, bass and kick opening. By the time it develops to more arpeggiated synths, Bullitt once again amazes to show yet another aspect of his delivery, not confining himself to any genre or style, he takes off on a melodic vocal trip, with his characteristic slightly-off-pitch bends that give his unique character to every note. Before you know it, you’re in a full-fledged atmospheric hook that drifts the listener into another planet for a moment, “Let’s ride all night under clear skies, feeling just fine while we ride,” before dropping down to the road for the stripped-down verses once again, where Bullitt’s life-experience rapping rides its own way before take-off again.
“The Devil Went Down” emphasizes Bullitt’s storytelling and suggestive abilities as he unfolds a tale with an instrumental accompaniment that carefully allows the vocal delivery to stand out to absorb Bullitt’s story. Chill guitar licks together with an ostinato of two synth chords throughout and punching kicks undertone Bullitt’s delivery, together with smooth guitar solo bridges to give space for processing the story, before Bullitt gets back into it time and again.
“Ain’t Changed” opens like a chart-topping alt-rock song from the very beginning, supported by Bullitt’s now signature opening hook of a deliberately pitch-bent melodic hook complementing an invention two-lines of clean guitar riffing, before launching in and out of verses that ride Bullitt’s emotional perspective of changes in his life.
“Empty Bottles” brings to the forefront Bullitt’s taking one too many drinks to deal with the stress, and reflecting on the losses against drinking, all the while outpouring his experiences over a steel-stringed acoustic guitar strumming an ongoing chord progression sets the foundation for Bullitt’s heart to open on this one.
Rain and distant thunder dominate the first minute of “Whiskey Sunrise” until an introspective solemn steel-stringed acoustic guitar riff fades in while the storm fades away. Just when you think this is some kind of instrumental outro to the album, at around one minutes and fourty seconds, Bullitt enters with one of his fastest verses on this album in an unexpected verse. Structurally, “Whiskey Sunrise” is the most unique song in the album. From his fastest verse, he shifts into possibly his slowest hook, emotionally engaging a new kind of atmosphere, almost giving the feel of the end of a long, lonely and rainy night. The song and album fades out once again with the rain that opened it up, as if going to sleep in a haze at the very end.
Once again, Bullitt masterfully balances between different emotions from full confidence, to retreat, partying with friends, loneliness, and alcohol and weed always show their face, if only for a little dabble, or extending them more than the blood stream can take and getting faded into a haze.
Stream Thom Bullitt – The Cooler King 2 on Spotify: open.spotify.com/album/6efFHsaIwzpmgBMzGmGQxd?si=o8TFiBVpSdKEmYBlmqkg6g