Wednesday, May 14, 2008
No. 486: Maggot Brain
Album: Maggot Brain
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Funkadelic's third album is a harder brand of funk than earlier records. Touching on classic 1970s themes -- empowerment, drugs, etc. -- the album is strong lyrically and darker musically.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Eddie Hazel's guitar is the signature of the record and it gets tedious.
Best song: "Hit It and Quit It" is great.
Worst song: The title track is way too long.
Is it awesome?: It's OK. I don't love it.
"Maggot Brain" is a wildly challenging album. Like many things George Clinton, it's pretty bizarre, but gone are the hits of previous Clinton-led work ("Atomic Dog," etc.) and left is a darker, more out-there record.
One needs to look no further than the opening title track to see this shift. The album opens with a 10 minute guitar solo. Sprawling and cool, "Maggot Brain" is a song that's not really a song. It's "Eruption" on heavy sedatives. The album's later tracks all carry guitarist Eddie Hazel's sound. His screaming wail dots the record.
It's a far musical cry from the Meters or Sly and the Family Stone, that's for sure. Lyrically, though, it works with similar themes. "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" is a song about unity among the poor. The song takes its refrain from a folk rhyme originally published in 1922. "Super Stupid" takes on the drug problem and takes influence from Jimi Hendrix. "Wars of Armageddon" is strange, long and fun. The lyrics are mostly about social power among the poor, as well as the politicians sending those to war.
It's not the records you know -- though you may know "Hit It and Quit It" -- but it is a good record. Worshipped by some, it takes a bit to resonate. But, when it does, look out.