http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/60cbc5c8f53ef12c1cde70e4d4f30e3d12359d73.jpg Maggot Brain


Maggot Brain

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5 0 0
September 30, 1971

Who needs this shit?

That said, we can progress to a more balanced appreciation of the third Funkadelic album. In it, the group continues their rather limited exploration of the dark side of psychedelia — a shattered, desolate landscape with few pleasures.

At its most mindless, we are given almost nine and a half minutes of "Wars of Armageddon" — steady bongos and drums behind a creeping ooze of guitars and repeated nudges from an organ, collaged with an arbitrary mix of angry yells, airport departure announcements, cuckoo clocks, garbled conversation and lame variations of popular slogans ("More people to the power; More power to the pussy") -which ends with: 1) several rumbling bomb blasts, 2) a beating heart and 3) a three-second disintegrating snatch of music. Far out. Balancing this is the ten-minute title cut which layers stark electric guitars over a simple, repeated, "beautiful" pattern on what at first sounds like acoustic guitar but at times swells to harp-like vibrancy. With this pattern unfolding like a cool breeze in the background, the electric guitars pursue independent courses out front like dragonflies dipping and sweeping; abrasive and fuzzy, then pure, lovely and shimmering.

In between "Maggot Brain" and "Armageddon," the opening and closing cuts, is an uneven group of shorter, more precise funk songs. One of these, "Can You Get to That," is a reworking of an old Parliaments single, "What You Been Growing," written by the producer here, George Clinton. The changes the song has been put through are indicative of Clinton's declining inspiration as a songwriter. The first verse in both versions ends with the lines, "But I read an old quotation in a book just yesterday: Said, 'You gonna reap just what you sow The less you make you'll have to pay.'" But instead of the original chorus "You been growing just what you been sowing," a nicely succinct message to an errant lover the Funkadelic substitute soul cliche: "Can you get to that I wanna know if you can get to that." In spite of this tell-tale change for the worse (and the other material displays an even more pronounced lyric thinness), "Get to That" is bright and enjoyable, making use of a female chorus and a tight but deliberately slowed-down pace.

Funkadelic is primarily an instrumental group, performing as the band for Clinton's funked-up Parliament, and the LP is marked as a "Parliafunkadelic Thang," although the Parliaments aren't on the record. With the exception of the two long showcase cuts one awfully muddy and jumbled, the other a fine sweet-and-sour dish the music on the whole is more competent than exciting. At best. Side two, culminating in (or descending to) "Armageddon," is a horrible mush. Such dead-end stuff.

Funk for funk's sake becomes merely garbage. Maggot Brain begins with a few echoed introductory lines: "... I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe. I was not offended; for I knew I had to rise above it all or drown in my own shit." Don't look now, bro' but it's up around your knees.

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