Here’s what happens when a buncha nifty punk-rock stoners put a glide in their stride, a dip in their hip, and step on to the mothership. Iffy is a strange Minneapolis studio agglomeration fronted by this fellow KjustinK (who used to be Kirk Justin in bluesy drug-punks Run Westy Run), as well as guitarist/programmer Dave Pederson and Dutch ex-pat Tom Merkl (who sailed some of these tracks between the continents via the internet). Out of nowhere, they’ve created Biota Bondo, a sly, percolating masterpiece of deep funktoons and loopy trips. Back in the day, urban funkateers like the Fatback Band or the Meters created mini-masterpieces of memorable house-party music, the sort of magical elixir that was the soundtrack for endless cackling and funk-dancing with a beer can in your hand. Biota Bondo is a startling reconfiguration of this genre: house-party music, Iffy-style. It’s something so unexpected and wonderful that a committee of record execs should commit hara-kiri ‘cause they lost the summer of 2001 to these left-field weirdoes.
Get out the bong and the jump ropes, ‘cause the party begins at track one: “Double Dutch”, an exuberant ode to silliness. “That’s yr finger stuck in the honeypot”, frontman KjustinK blurts as the music pulls up to the curb and unleashes a chorus of kids and a joyous evocation of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Shining Star”. Right off the bat, KjustinK gives you a sweet taste of his new vocal style: a twangy, laid-back drawl out the side of his mouth, a new Beastie Boy sipping daiquiris on the beach.
And the hooks don’t stop. “Can o Cope”, “Hi-Life”, and “Sweet Stuff” are so eternal, so memorable that you gotta stop dancing for a sec and wonder whether these stoners tapped into some sort of platonic party stream before laying down their intercontinental tracks. “Can o Cope” is a happy anthem of stoicism and joy, in which KjustinK can’t stop talking and the world won’t stop spinning. “The world is just one big jack-off stall” he proclaims in “Hi-Life” and before you can stop dancing you imagine the wiggling fingers of technicolor hands waving from the Iffy website. And then there’s “Sweet Stuff”. If the Summer of 2001 needs a love song (of course it does!) then this is it. A buoyant smitten platter of half-nonsense and serious lust, it practically cartwheels out your stereo speakers with an inexorable beat and an unshakable hook. These are some funky, spunky weirdoes.
Those four opening tracks are wearing enough, so “Georgina”, “Joyrider”, “Larva Rae”, and “Original Greenlight” are dubby chillout music—pretty swell and sneering, but the sorta thing to hear while kicking back and toweling off your sweaty forehead. It’s fun trying to figure out the subtle and brief samples though. (“Larva Rae” begins with that rooster from the Gap Band’s “Early in the Morning”, for example.) But if they’re filler (which they aren’t really), you can still dance to ‘em.
Possibly the weirdest tune on this weird platter is “The Citation”, which cites their Minneapolis roots by nicking the premise behind the Replacements’ “I Don’t Know” and riding it into the sunset as a garrulous ode to “the stinky groove”. The stinky groove turns into the zany groove in “Da Blink”, which is several bong hits removed from the rest of the album. It starts with sitars, the chorus sounds like Jane’s Addiction (“under the gun of consumption”, it says), and you can practically smell KjustinK’s breath when he says “haven’t put a hole in my belt in a long, long, time”. A swell tune; don’t miss it.
Things get super freaky and weird with “Super-Bad Girl”—a song to show off to your friends when they come over wanting something new. This track is a monster—a trip back to 1978 with lotsa computer equipment in tow. The Rubberband Man is on bass, and the spirit of Sylvester infuses KjustinK with a desire to reinvent the craziest bits of disco. A sublime break featuring holy keybs and some ghost whispering about “inner love” puts the tune over the edge into some glorious smoke-filled back lit zone of funky enchantment.
The album never recovers from it. “Proof” does some damage as a near-hip-hop nickel-bag anthem, peaking with KjustinK’s crackling voice drawling “tick tock…tick…tock…tickety tock” as if time were indeed moving backwards. “Baby your time’s up”, he declares—but wait we’re still dancin’!
“Maskman”, the closing track, proves him right. Time’s up. The tune is psychedelic and slow, and slightly incoherent (“who convinced your hens not to lay your pony to lose”—come again?). Then we get about six minutes of baked cloying whispers—mostly nonsense syllables. Not exactly a rousing finale—especially since the whispers turn into snores (literally!) before you can be bothered to get up and shut the thing off. A cloudy end to a frenzied party album.
Remember when George Clinton said “funk can not only move, it can remove”? He was talking about the healing powers of funk, its necessity and depth. Well, it’s 2001 now, so what have we got? Iffy’s Biota Bondo is necessary and deep, and it’ll lift up even the most bummed soul out there if they give it a chance. It’s house-party music, sure, but it’s also musical prozac. Dig it.
// Notes from the Road
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