Tom Tom Club: The Good the Bad and the Funky

Charlotte Robinson

Tom Tom Club

The Good the Bad and the Funky

Label: Rykodisc
US Release Date: 2000-09-12
UK Release Date: 2000-10-16

While Tom Tom Club began as a side project for Talking Heads' rhythm section Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, it has become the couple's main musical outlet since the demise of their former group. After four albums and an eight-year hiatus, the duo return with a new batch of musicians on The Good the Bad and the Funky.

Inspired by a new generation of turntablists and younger artists sampling their work (Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" incorporates the duo's signature song "Genius of Love"), Tom Tom Club have decided to get back in the game. The press releases would have you believe that Tom Tom Club are tragically underrated innovators with whom the rest of the world is only now catching up. Critics, however, often say the band had one good album in them -- the eponymous debut -- and have been struggling to make a consistent record ever since.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. When the group debuted in 1981, hip-hop was a new genre that most white people didn't know about, let alone perform. The fact that Weymouth and Frantz were turning the style on its head so early on by marrying it to melodic pop was a stunning achievement. The duo's attempts to fuse world music, funk, and pop were also admirable, although their experiments paled in comparison to the groundbreaking work they did with Talking Heads.

On The Good the Bad and the Funky, Tom Tom Club don't break much new ground sonically, but they have proven that they can write a consistently strong batch of songs. It's still difficult to call this album "consistent", however, because it incorporates several vocalists (Weymouth, Charles Pettigrew, Mystic Bowie, and Toots Hibbert) and jumps from "Genius of Love" rewrites ("Who Feelin' It"), to funk ("She's a Freak"), to dub ("Soul Fire"), to ballads ("Let There Be Love"). While all of the songs are strong, they don't necessarily sound like they belong on the same album.

Still, there is a lot to like on The Good the Bad and the Funky. Charles Pettigrew has a lovely, soulful voice that makes "Holy Water" and "Let There Be Love" shine, while Weymouth uses her girlish vocals to maximum deadpan effect. While Tom Tom Club have recorded some misguided covers in the past, their stab at Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" here is compelling. Whereas the tension in Summer's version came from hearing her sensual and very human moans over robotic beats, Tom Tom Club do the opposite, laying down warm, seductive grooves over which Weymouth sings in a near monotone.

There is also a decent Lee Perry cover sung by Mystic Bowie, but the originals are even better. The cynical logic of "Happiness Can't Buy Money", the simplistic funk statement "She's a Freak", and the otherworldly instrumental "Lesbians by the Lake" are all skewed and inspired. It doesn't hold together terribly well, but taken as a collection of individual songs, The Good the Bad and the Funky lives up to its name.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.