Sounds Like Getting Down

Look at books, magazine, blogs and their infinite count of words on music: classical, jazz, rock, hip hip, ‘indie,’ etc. Where’s the funk?

There are, if you can believe it, adult music listeners and critics (by adult I mean that they are of legal drinking age), who dig teeny-bopper music, are seemingly willingly caught between the conflicts of puerile sexuality and mature responsibility, and pine over the ‘song of summer.’ I’m no pride, certainly no reactionary, but do find the dominance of infantilism in American popular culture more than a little problematic, and there are troubling political and social ramifications in how this infantilism is an outgrowth of white, middle-class materialism and consumerism. When the shit you buy makes you hip …. well, you never were and never will be.

The way out is the funk (this old favorite post) digs into the details), the pluperfect music for our ever-changing mongrel culture. Jazz, my first love, is never going to be popular music again, it would do better to embrace its niche as a cult, art music. Rock and hip hop have their moments, and I like good music aimed at the groin, but again the level of taste and titillation of a thirteen year old gets tiresome quickly.

But funk is the thing, taking elements of every immigrant culture and every bit of American roots, putting it together into the right kind of steaming stew, the one you can dance to and that also, once your ear examines the intricacies of the music’s components, satisfies the mind and the sense of skilled musicianship. The music cuts across races and ages (though not politics: I know the GOP likes to haul out “Everyday People” for rallies, but to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins, they don’t say all men are brothers, and they don’t actually believe it).

Funk is niche music too in that not too many bands are playing it, but funk bands tend to be good bands, and that includes the Saturday Night Live band and Paul Schafer’s band for David Letterman. Funk is music good musicians play for both money and pleasure, they get paid without slumming in Top 40 territory. The current trend is two-pronged: the warm, thick production of Daptone records and some afro-beat seasoning. They come together on a new release from Third Coast Kings, West Grand Boulevard. Sample below:

A little Dap Kings, a little Tower of Power, a little Antibalas. Strong grooves, lots of horn color. Not a perfect record, the few vocal numbers suffer from the same immature sexuality and materialism that infects every corner of the culture, and singers Sean Ike and Michelle Camilleri will not make you forget Lenny White or Sharon Jones, but the music is a real pleasure. Self-actualize yourself.

UPDATE: Fixed YouTube short code


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.