The funny thing about TYRON is how clearly slowthai intends towards something, but never quite approaches it. Nothing Great About Britain was excellent – not to mention very clear in its concept – and bought him considerable goodwill, but it may also have painted him into a corner. Tyron Frampton approaches things differently this time around: a double LP, different soundscapes, feature artists and different syntax indicate his second album’s ambition; it just feels as if he lets himself down in its execution.
Every listen, the same things stick out, which leads to them becoming the album narrative. I was surprised by them every time, as well, which speaks to how forgettable this album feels at times. In order: it’s how reliable Skepta feels (on ‘CANCELLED’); how good ‘VEX’ is; the duality of lyrics about ‘doing a Cruyff turn’ and mentions of Ronaldo closing the A- and opening the B-side respectively (‘PLAY WITH FIRE’/’i tried’); the quality of ‘push’; and the knowledge that ‘adhd’ feels decidedly final.
It has its moments, that’s clear – I really can’t overstate how good ‘VEX’ is – but it feels muddled. The first half feels like Frampton is trying to work out how he wants to sound, and by the second it feels like the sound he found isn’t one he was trialling. Part of why ‘push’ and ‘nhs’ stand out is that slowthai succeeds despite a lack of assistance from any conventionally solid beat, like he’s his own combustion engine. They stick out because they have to, like that’s what is needed and that’s what works.
The latter songs play off of this. The beats are lighter, use different feature artists and aren’t carried by internal momentum. Deb Never is outstanding on ‘push’, while James Blake and Mount Kimbie help project maturity on the album’s penultimate track ‘feel away’. It’s different from the impact of Skepta – who is the lone reliable character on the A-side – and A$AP Rocky on the album’s earlier tracks, even if it’s difficult to work out why.
Through several, even multiple listens, the fact that the same things stand out feels more like a mark against, rather than for, the record, which on the whole comes across as a tad mismanaged. It’s reflective of the high expectations slowthai’s cultivated for himself, but TYRON has more of a mixtape flavour than the follow-up to one of the best albums to come out of Britain in the last five years should.