[11 January 2005]
Do you need The Funk? Are you still waiting for the new Parliament record? Does it just royally piss you off when people call Flea the best funk bassist ever, because he can’t hold a birthday candle to Bootsy?
Weapon of Choice is here to save the day.
At least, that’s the idea.
Strictly speaking, of course, Weapon of Choice aren’t trying to follow George Clinton’s trail-blazing funk crew: ask vocalist/bassist/commander Lonnie Marshall what genre his band’s music falls into, and he’ll answer you with a spice. Nutmeg, to be precise. Based on Color Me Funky, ‘nutmeg music’ is four parts funk, two parts hard rock, and one part each reggae, hip-hop, and soul. Add an unhealthy dose wordplay around ‘nut’ and ‘nutmeg’, and—voila!—nutmeg music is born. I suppose if the press can use the phrase ‘post-emocore’ with a straight face, ‘nutmeg’ may as well be fair game too. Color Me Funky is no doubt intended to be the definitive nutmeg statement, as it’s a greatest hits album of sorts; no less than thirteen of its fifteen tracks come from previous Weapon of Choice albums (nine from 1996’s Highperspice), with two new tracks added to give the long-timers a reason to lay down their hard-earned cash.
So, sure, it all sounds like a good-natured old-fashioned genre mash, with The Funk reigning supreme over all. The problem is, it just doesn’t sound like the good time it’s intended to be. Tracks like opener “Highperspice” and “Count Mackuluv” settle into a groove, stay in that groove, add some electric guitars, clutter the mix with lots of background vocal work and noise—and then they end. These are songs that are completely forgettable, which would be a forgivable offense if they were at all fun. The drumming is too heavy, the pace is too slow, and the songs just don’t flow the way the P-Funk masters’ did. Banal lyrics, bad tuning, and problems with tonality can be forgiven if everything else just sounds a little sincere, a little relaxed, a little less tense. Marshall and his band, which also features members of Fishbone, sound like they’re trying way too hard to cover up for suspect source material by adding lots of noise via guitars, horns, yelps, howls, and chants.
It’s not all bad. The electro-fueled “I Like Your Body” would be the funk answer to The Love Below if it weren’t originally released seven years before André 3000’s magnum opus. It’s a trip despite the stupid announcer (played, of course, by Marshall himself) who opens and breaks up the middle of the song. The older track “Iz Funk Aroma Thera ‘P’ Utik?” is an infectious exercise in funk-metal that’s more than a little reminiscent of 311’s best jams. One of the new joints, a cover of Parliament’s “Colour Me Funky” (here misspelled as “Color Me Funky”), actually features some inventive bass work and chord progressions. This, of course, makes sense, as Weapon of Choice didn’t actually write it.
Regrettably, for every “Color Me Funky” or “I Like Your Body” there’s a “Just Cuz She Was Nice”, whose reggae stylings might be tolerable if not for Marshall’s obnoxious vocals, or a “Let the Shit Hit the Fan”, which is a rehash of the worst the ‘70s ever had to offer. Six minutes of it, even. By the time closer “Origin of the Nutmeg” comes around with its backward masking and random sampled hoo-haa, any listener of this dreck will likely be foaming at the mouth in fits of rabid boredom.
Any displaced P-Funk fans could probably be forgiven for picking up Color Me Funky: everything from the space-age artwork to the refusal to take anything seriously points to a desire to take things right on back up to the Mothership. Believe it or not, Weapon of Choice isn’t even all that far off from living up to such a tremendous precedent. Still, the one thing they need to put them over the edge is to sound utterly effortless. Weapon of Choice is the loud, arrogant guy at the party trying to convince everyone that he’s the man, and everyone else had better respect. All the while, Clinton’s in the back room, puttin’ his feet up, smokin’ a bowl, and groovin’ to the rhythms in his head.
Which one would you rather hang out with?