FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Desperation in an Unavoidable Groove

by LORENZO WOLFF

Back in high school my English teacher told me about a guy named Aristotle, who divided literature into two categories: comedy and tragedy. Maybe I misunderstood what he was talking about, because I have a very hard time finding the tipping point. Look at Comic Slop by Funkadelic, if you can classify that album you’re thinking too hard and not listening closely enough.

Funkadelic, the sister group of Parliament, was born from the backing band for George Clinton’s Doo-Wop group, The Parliaments. Clinton had a knack for finding the most interesting and bizarre musicians, and a reputation for losing them as quickly as he found them. But in 1973, when Cosmic Slop was released, the line-up was impeccable. The chemistry between “Tiki” Fulwood’s drums and “Boogie” Mosson’s bass is undeniable. At their worst they’re tighter than most other rhythm sections, and when they gel, they’re a force to be reckoned with. The straight man of the group was Bernie Worrel, whose arrangements kept Funkadelic’s otherworldly sounds grounded in reality. The combination makes it hard to decide whether to dance or genuflect.

Cosmic Slop is ahead of its time in the subject matter it covers. Since the advent of hip hop, visceral descriptions of ghetto living are commonplace, but in 1973 most songs used a much lighter touch when describing poverty. Funkadelic goes against this grain in the title track, where a mother asks god for forgiveness for having to prostitute herself to feed her children. It comes from the perspective of her son, who hears her “calling out to god” when she brings her johns home. It’s the kind of song that really cuts deep, it doesn’t offer any advice, it just makes it clear that there is a problem. What’s confusing about the song is the funky, uptempo pace. It’s talking about a tragic situation, but still compelling you to tap your foot and shake your ass.

The same goes for “Trash A-Go-Go”, another song about prostitution, this one from the perspective of a pimp, who is standing before his conscience anthropomorphized in the form of a judge and jury. Their verdict?

They say exploiting your lady,
Just for a payday is a sin,
And you will pay,

But when getting over is high above your head,
And getting high can get you dead,
What are you supposed to do?

It’s another song that doesn’t have a solution. The situation is so fucked up, that it’s hard to blame anyone for their trespasses. The beat this time is more militant, almost a death march, heavy eighth notes on the bass drum and an unrelenting snare make dancing feel less like a choice and more like the only option.

It’s desperation at its most desperate, but it’s also a good time, an unavoidable groove. This is why I have a hard time finding the line that Aristotle drew. The sadness and despair is the problem and the way out is provided, in the grooves of the record. People can’t suffer exclusively, the tragedy forces the comedy.

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail