Post Malone’s “Twelve Carat Toothache” review: his sobering descent

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Post Malone's "Twelve Carat Toothache" review: his sobering descent

“All I want to do is just be honest,” Post Malone told Zane Lowe in a recent interview with Apple Music. His fourth album, Twelve Carat Toothache, offers the most intimate and candid look into his life to date, sharing the perspective of some of his personal struggles without sacrificing good melodies.

This record is a natural follow-up to the last time we heard from the tattooed superstar in album form, 2019’s eclectic ‘Hollywood’s Bleeding’. This record spoke of the dark side of LA and the vultures that circle you when you get there lucky Now his creator turns his focus inward on how fame has affected him internally and other demons he has faced in his life.

The big theme at the heart of it all is the star’s relationship with alcohol, explored most clearly in the dark, poignant “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol,” which stars Post’s musical heroes, Fleet Foxes. “You’re the reason I got my ass kicked“, he tells the contents of his glass, “but you’re the only way to drown my sadness.” As the strings provide a percussive base and a spare beat adds to the drama, he recalls waking up with missing teeth and nights gone awry thanks to poisoning.

I took a shot, took a shot, took another shot‘ he sighs in a sentence that’s deceptively simple and refers to drinking, hitting, and hitting. “Fell right out of my goddamn chair and swung at his eye.Later, over the intermittent beeps of “euthanasia,” he revels in a clear-headed moment (“Behold, a sober moment / Too short and far between‘), but the drought doesn’t last long: ‘I should crack open / To celebrate being clean.”

“When I’m Alone” takes a different beat and explores a different theme – betrayal of an ex-partner. “All I wanted was a decent piece on the side‘ he tries to argue. “Then my baby found out / Now I live in a hotel, live in a hotel.” A storm of beats and synths almost strays into drum ‘n’ bass territory as the 26-year-old shares his regret and state of mind. “How is your life? Need a lifeline now‘ he croaks. “99 nights tryna get my mind now / Life sucks even though I’m in the spotlight now.”

The pitfalls of fame run throughout the album, as in the piano-led opener “Reputation,” in which Post seemingly rails against the expectations and demands of fans and the industry (“Take my own life just to save yours / Drink it all down just to throw it up […] I’ve got a reputation I can’t deny / You’re the superstar, entertain us“). It’s a raw portrait of the pressure of being someone adored by many but struggling to be self-adored. “I was born what a shame‘ he sings at one point as the song ends with just his voice alone echoing as he cries: ‘Let me choke on my cigarettes and high debts.”

While there are many moments in “Twelve Carat Toothache” that seem to relate to Post’s relationship with herself, it’s not all somber. The Kid Laroi collaboration Wasting Angels, as the musician recently explained on Instagram Live, is “a celebration of life and a human spirit that’s capable of fighting no matter what.” Although in it he admits “I just need a little something to get me through the day‘ it ends in a chorus of chorus-like backing vocals as he shares what feels like a personal revelation on the way to feeling happier: ‘I should listen to you now if I never have.” “I Like You (A Happier Song),” which includes a golden verse from Doja Cat, throws inner struggles out the window and draws his attention to a crush.

The latter song, however, also contains Post’s biggest misstep on this album — maintaining modern music’s casual misogyny. “Now that I’m famous, I have hoes all around me‘ he boasts. “But I need a good girl, I need someone to ground meThe problem lies not only in labeling women as “hoes,” but also in pitting a woman characterized as sexually promiscuous against a “good one,” with the star falling into the trap of the Madonna-whore dichotomy. Of course, Post isn’t the only musician currently using such language in reference to women in his songs, but that’s no excuse to join the crowd, nor does it shield him from criticism.

Musically things are a lot less disappointing. The record hovers somewhere between hip-hop and alt-pop and mostly focuses on minimal sounds. “Lemon Tree” returns to the sound of the Fleet Foxes as Post whips out an acoustic guitar for a folksy composition, while “Waiting For A Miracle” centers around heavy piano stabs, reflecting the weighty feel of his lyrics. “Insane,” on the other hand, is sonically one of the most interesting tracks on the album, taking things in a edgier, more ominous direction, with sweeping bass lines and addictive rhythms underpinning its creator’s lust-filled, despair-tinged growls.

Aside from the occasional dated attitude and some light filler here and there, “Twelve Carat Toothache” is another step up for Post Malone. It’s a record that feels distinctive and inimitable, successfully realizing its goal of sharing its truth. Couple that with his recent comments about how he’s found happiness too, and it seems like things are looking up again for Post Malone.

details

Post Malone Twelve Karat Toothache
CREDIT: Press

Label: Mercury Records / Republic Records
Release date: June 3, 2022

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