A "foot fetish funk" band that's musically accomplished, but their lyrics -- like a worn pair of socks -- quite frankly stink.
Foot Patrol specialize in "foot fetish funk", to put it lightly. Every lyric, word, and thought that comes out of Pussyfooting winds up dealing with virtually every aspect of foot fetishism -- from toe-sucking to tickling and everything in between -- all while being grounded in a variety of funk-pop styles that stretch from the deep wah-funk of the '70s to the synth-led Minneapolis sound of the '80s, with a few stylistic detours thrown in just for good measure. Add it all together and you've got one hell of a fun novelty disc, right? Right?
Although the Foot Patrol -- who primarily consist of bassist/producer Hung Nguyen and blind keyboardist/vocalist TJ Wade -- have certainly found enough value in their gimmick to make them stand out in a market that would've otherwise indifferently passed them by, the problem with Pussyfooting is that the duo take this concept far too seriously. A few well-composed funk tracks with cute puns about feet, footwear, and all the various aromas associated with this fetish is one thing; spreading it out across 14 tracks and 45 minutes without any sort of deviation is something completely different -- and far more grating.
Things start off interestingly enough: "U R What U Feet", despite the deplorable title (don't fret -- they've got even more where that came from), sounds like it was beamed directly out of the sessions for Prince's 1999, but given a lengthy podiacal twist with the lyrics. It's a funky little number, and then is followed by -- another 1999-era Prince-styled track ("Dirty Digits"). While two numbers in the same vein is fine in and of itself, the Foot Patrol keeps going, and by the time they get to the sub-par "Delirious" rewrite "Two of Every Kind", it's obvious that despite some solid hooks, the band's stylistic template isn't merely narrow -- it's painfully limited. As such, whey they finally drop in the deep Parliament-styled groove of the title track, it proves to be a welcome break during the album's initial slog (and, thank goodness, it incorporates live horns, offering a break from the duo's largely-mechanized sound).
Yet even while the group continues to cycle through different imitations of their funk heroes, the Foot Patrol's lyrics, quite frankly, stink. Every song features one of three themes (or a combination therein): 1) that a girl has sexy feet, 2) that said girl should not clean them, as somewhat dirty feet is the preferred norm here, or 3) that even if you think TJ's fetish is weird, he don't care 'cos he loves it anyways (he even at one point tries to diss all his "haters" out there). Now while these themes are fine in and of themselves, they grow immensely tiresome after being repeated ad nauseum. For the dirty feet aspect alone, no less than four whole tracks ("Dirty Digits", "Mudslide", "Stanky", and the gag-inducing commercial interlude "Funion Bunions") are dedicated to it, the point being made long before we stopped caring about it. No, we don't get a lyrical perspective from the other end, nor do we get an interesting fetish-based character study, nor anything else, for that matter. What we get is that TJ likes his feet dirty, and he's going to take a quarter of his band's entire album telling you so.
Yet even with their limited lyrical outlook, the band is capable of not only writing some decent musical moments -- which range from moderately funky (the mid-tempo "Welcome Me") to the flat-out weird (the inexplicable attempt to reincarnate Eartha Kitt on "A Foot in Hand") -- it should be noted that there at least a few songs here that integrate challenging musical (but not lyrical) ideas into the mix, suggesting that there is more to this group that mere stylistic photocopying. Chief among these almost-winners is the Camille-indebted "Orientoes", which grounds itself with a catchy, looped vocal sample and thundering trash-can drums to create one of the disc's standout musical moments, even as it soundtracks a bizarre monologue about a female foot model trying to make it the city (before being tickled for an extended period of time). "Orientoes"'s only real competition in the "genuine takeaways" department is the moody, sensual closer "Foot Worship Queen", which not only features the most seductive groove the band has yet written, but also their most considered vocal performance as well, approaching something that almost borders on an emotional moment (featuring a well-placed spoken-word bit right in the middle) right before the group, as always, self-sabotages themselves with further kinky fetish talk, this time involving licking sugar off of one's toes. Yet even with that in mind, this unique groove experiment shows that the group is possibly capable of creating something far more substantial than music that would otherwise be written off as nothing more than mere fetish-soundtrack novelty.
It is reported that nearly one third of all body fetishes involve the feet in one way or another, so perhaps the most surprising fact of Pussyfooting isn't that it merely exists; it's the fact that it's taken so long for an album of this nature to finally emerge. It's just a shame that Foot Patrol's music is too well-composed to be written off as mere novelty, all while the band's lyrics do the exact opposite of that, creating a record that is mildly amusing but ultimately dismissive. Well, unless you're Rex Ryan, of course....