Review Summary: This record was a fantastic follow up to "America Eats Its Young" and exposed a concise, tight side of a usually very messy and scattered band, in a good way.
With this record, we see a new side of Funkadelic. We see a tighter, more altogether Funkadelic with less loose ends and more sophisticated combinations and layering. This is not to say that Funkadelic was losing originality, no, not at all. In fact, Funkadelic, while keeping it all together, really pushed the boundaries with this record. After all, what did they have to lose? They were following up a commercial flop that was a very messy record. Here is a track by track breakdown of each funky nugget of this memorable piece of wax.
1. Nappy Dugout
Within the first 30 seconds of this song, we understand that this is something new. This is a Meters-esque groove over what is, in my opinion, a beautifully simple drum groove. Right as the riff is starting to get tiresome, you appreciate the complexities, like the bongo groove and the assorted shakers, then a harmonica trill comes in and introduces a new feel. Of course, George can not help himself from adding old car horn sounds to goof it up a bit, and keep the listener aware of the fact that this is the same George Clinton that was behing all the classics, like those off Maggot Brain. The vocals on this song are not to be overlooked. Though they only consist of three words, "Eyyyy Nappy Dugout" they are used in such a way that really add to the song, and not just make it overkill. By the way, what the hell is a nappy dugout? Probably some sexual innuendo (knowing Mr. Clinton's reputation) that I'm missing out on.
2. You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure
Picture this: You're ascending a staircase, of course this is not just a staircase but it is the E flat major scale that the old grand piano is belting out in syncopation with the snare drum in the first 3 seconds of the song. As you reach the top of that staircase, you open a door and enter a party. This party is thrown by none other than the crazy George Clinton, so you know you've come to the right place. As you enter the party, you are assaulted with festivities. Festivities such as a three part vocal harmony over an impenetrable drum and bass groove. As you saunter around the room you find doors, as you open each door you unleash a new singer, in one door hides Gary Shider, in another the Brides of Funkenstein. After you have released all the singers into the party, you relax and admire George Clinton's beautiful orchestration of these amazing talents. An indisputable 5/5
If you listen to Parliament's 1976 "Do That Stuff", the exact same groove is used.
3. March To The Witch's Castle
This song will take you by surprise. After a cheery, funky "You Can't Miss..." we get a dramatic, gloomy story of soldiers returned from war. What's easy to overlook on this song while you listen to George preach his peaceful ways is Eddie Hazel's outstanding guitar on this song. It sets very appropriate tone for the song. What I love about this song, and you won't hear me say this often, is the lyrics. Powerful lines like "Father bless the soldier who has returned home from the war/he has fought with all his might, yet he knew not what or for who he was fighting for". Then the keys take the role of the guitar, and make for a very impressive verse. This is my second favorite on this album, and clocking in at 6:01 it takes just as long as it must to deliver a message, while not dragging on. Another indisputable 5/5
4. Let's Make It Last
Although this song, concept-wise, has no relation to its predecessor, it is a great song in its own right. It grooves like no other, and Gary Shider's vocals on this song are just unbelievable, his impressive falsettos just perfect the song, and Eddie's signature wah tone puts the rock back in Funkadelic. And yet again, the drum and bass groove is absolutely impenetrable. All of these elements stacked upon one another really make this song a great trip.
5. Cosmic Slop
Patience, patience is key. Allow yourself to become hypnotized by Eddie's guitar wails and an entrancing percussion section. Listen as Gary tells you a story about his family. Then, the chorus. This is a very strange chorus because there is no increase in volume or differing in tone, but really all that happens is the "Devil" asks "Would you like to dance with me? We're doing the Cosmic Slop" which makes it a beautifully simple chorus. The rest of the song, although just the same structure over and over again, it is endlessly entertaining, as Eddie's solos always are, and the "ooh ah ooh" of the background voices make the outro very entertaining.
6. No Compute
What is this? This isn't funk, this isn't rock, this is... this is good! Wow, what I realize hear is that George understands that we've heard enough funk rock and enough hypnotizing epics so he gives us something completely different. He documents a man's weak attempt at sexual pleasure, and comes on comically to strong over what is really a blues song. This song was a pleasant surprise and deserves a 4/5
7. This Broken Heart
The only Funkadelic song I can name that's in 3/4, this is another break from the funk-rock assault we're used to hearing. I hear a lot of Beatles influence in this song, and George would not disagree. This song has a great chorus that really makes the song feel complete, and not just loose ends tied together. It's got a great drum part that becomes more apparent later in the song. Once again, this song is not too long, and really tells a complete story and has a satisfying ending.
8. Trash A Go Go
Aaaand we're back! Back with the usual funk-rock explosion we're used to hearing, that is. This song especially features George Clinton on vocals and Eddie Hazel on guitar, as well as whoever was playing tambourine. George rasps and belts it out to his fullest ability, as Eddie wails and wahs with another great solo. This song laid down the groundwork for songs like "Get Off Your Ass And Jam" and other uptempo rockers.
9. Can't Stand The Strain
This song made a bad impression on me with the intro. I thought "What is this? Fleetwood Mac?" Then I heard the Brides of Funkenstein team up with Shider and Clinton to achieve vocal excellence with great harmonies. Then when I heard George bellow "This old heart can't stand the strain" I knew this song was really a classic. The outro is also fantastic, the echoing of "Don't do it, don't do it, don't take your love away" Really make this song, as well as the whole album, feel very complete.