After two straight albums made by basically throwing every dang thing at the wall just to see what would happen, it turns out Bruce Hornsby still has one more in the grab bag. He began Absolute Zero (Zappo, 2019) and Non-Secure Connection (Zappo, 2020) without any particular theme, just taking musical bits and bobs he'd produced for Spike Lee films and letting each one wander into its own space. Again packed with weird turns and fun surprises, 'Flicted rounds out the unofficial trilogy with perhaps the widest hodgepodge of the bunch.
This collection was intended as a more upbeat one, which isin keeping with the title and the timesa qualified success. The conflict is reflected with a continual push and pull in tones throughout: cautious optimism amidst a pandemic with no end in sight, eloquently gentle chamber strings underlying one of the bleakest story lyrics in his catalogue, a pair of the album's catchiest folk songs brightly musing on fate and death. The tracks are just about evenly split between layered electronic studio productions and straight acoustic performances, with the radiant Danielle Haim duet "Days Ahead" beautifully combining both those poles right at mid-set.
The trademark piano is still in there somewhere, but Hornsby is drifting further away from tricky technical challenges (been there, etc) and more interested in stretching himself on the writing and production fronts. Steady-gliding emo groove in a sunny canyon of psychedelic echo? A Chuck Berry cover reinvented as wacky lo-fi hip-hop? Semi-rapping and falsetto capering over a couple twisting techno-funk jams on speed? What the hell, he really will try anything once.
Even across all the wildly different styles and sounds, there isn't a moment of this album that sounds like it could have come from anyone else. It isn't what Hornsby's old-school pop or jam-band devotees might want (if any of them are still listening anyway), and it's certainly not what anybody expected, but 'Flicted shows a musical mind as creative as ever and gives this series a wrap-up as bonkers as it deserves.
Sidelines; Tag; The Hound; Too Much Monkey Business; Maybe Now; Bucket List; Days Ahead; Lidar; Is
This It; Had Enough; Simple Prayer II; Point Omega.