Music

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
Amazon
iTunes

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.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.