Prince: Dirty Mind (1980)

The 204th best album ever made. Seriously.

Purchase this album: Amazon 

THE SCENE: No matter your opinion of Prince’s music, one has to admit that the composer of “Sexy MF”, “Sex Shooter”, “The Sex of It”, “Sexuality”, “Sexy Dancer”, “Lovesexy”, “Sex In the Summer”, and “Sex” is extremely focused. At least until his short-term memory kicks in. In the latest issue of New Yorker magazine he shockingly came out against gay marriage, in his own metaphorical way. He later claimed he was misquoted, but since he prevented the interview from being taped he’s culpable in his causing his own problem. (Does anyone else find it ironic that a man who’s spent most of his adult life in a recording studio refuses to let a journalist record his interviews? Maybe he just doesn’t like their choice of microphones.)

The larger oddity is that Prince, now a wealthy 50ish Jehovah’s Witness, has seemingly forgotten that he erected his career upon the bedrock of sexual freedom and gender equity, and how much more interesting he was back when he was a hungry 20-something ex-Seventh Day Adventist. And to that I present his perverted revolutionary classic Dirty Mind.

His previous album Prince went gold on the success of the R&B/disco single “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, but nothing about Dirty Mind said “smooth R&B lover man”. The bikini & trenchcoat cover alone telegraphs his colossal desire to share his severely naughty desires with anyone trapped by his gaze, and in a tight half-hour he lets his salacious psyche unravel.

Sonically as cold as a back-alley quickie, Dirty Mind reinvents funk for the punk age, from the low-fidelity sound that reveals its start as demo recordings to its James Brown-meets-The-Cars keyboard tones, all sour, piercing and aggressive. Here’s where he perfected his hedonist howl, his dry guitar tangs, and his obsession with messing with listeners’ heads.

“Dirty Mind” is one extended come-on, where he offers you, the listener, money to let him “lay you down”. “Sister” makes the most of its rugged and raw 90 seconds by relaying his sexual awakening through sibling-on-sibling action.

My sister never made love to anyone else but me
She’s the reason for my, uh, sexuality
She showed me where it’s supposed to go
A blow job doesn’t mean blow
Incest is everything it’s said to be

“Uptown” is his fantasyland where one can live in harmony through libidinous experimentation, which includes this randy quatrain:

“What’s up little girl?”
“I ain’t got time to play.”
Baby didn’t say too much
She said, “Are you gay?”

And then there’s the oral control anthem “Head”, where the funk is so stanky it could disintegrate soap on contact. As subtle as pair of crotchless panties, Prince initiates a plan to divert a bride from her intended destination:

I remember when I met u, baby
U were on you’re way to be wed…
…But I’ve gotta have u, baby
I got to have u in my bed, and you said
“But I just a virgin and I’m on my way to be wed
But you’re such a hunk, So full of spunk,
I’ll give you head”
‘Til you’re burning up
‘Til you get enough
‘Til you’re love is red
Love it you ’til you’re dead

OK, perhaps Prince wasn’t big on traditional marriage either.

THE FALLOUT: His label was so shocked they created a whole new Explicit Lyrics sticker for him. Rock critics immediately jumped on Prince’s jock, falling over themselves with praise. Rolling Stone eventually ranked it 204 on their 500 Greatest Albums list. Yet for all its brilliance Dirty Mind sold less than its predecessor, only achieving gold status after the release of Controversy, 1999 and Purple Rain. To date it’s the lowest selling album of his classic period*. Maybe he should give it as spin and see why the world thinks he’s lost the plot.

(*1979-1987: Classic period. 1988-present: Mostly crap.)

Dirty Mind is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

So filthy you may need to bathe, Dirty Mind set the blueprint for Prince’s musical domination, and sadly shows why hypocrisy is the greatest luxury.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Kora and trombone sitting in a tree, J-A-M-M-I-N-G.

Poundhound: Massive Grooves From The Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998)


Night of the living bass-head.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: On Chris Rock’s MySpace page he posted a so-funny-it’s-painful essay called the Only Black Guy Concert Review :

“So far this year I was the only black guy at the Van Halen concert, the only black guy at the Cure concert, and the only black guy at the White Stripes concert. And later on this year I’m sure I’ll be the only black guy at the Radiohead concert.”

As the lead singer and bassist of the veteran power trio King’s X, Doug Pinnick lives this position. No matter how unique I may feel at a Pink Floyd concert (where I was constantly asked by white hippie kids if I was selling pot), Pinnick knows he’s the only black, out, left-handed detuned 12-string rock bassist around. But the man loves his job, and after King’s X was dropped by their label in 1996 he recorded his solo debut, the powerful Massive Grooves From The Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music under the name Poundhound.

This gospel-tinged riff rock album is focused on low end the way Sir Mix-A-Lot is focused on back end; it’s not merely the starting point but the entire point. Every track features tasty deep, pelvis shaking bass, sometimes thick like slab-bacon but commonly fresh & fizzy like a mouthful of ginger ale. I played it in my car and I had to turn the bass knob DOWN, and that never happens.

Pinnick’s church-trained bluesy voice is stunning not only for its purity and vulnerability, but also for its sheer strength to cut through the rumbling wall-o-bass to even be heard. The creeping paranoia of “Supersalad” approaches like a tipsy marching army. “Jangle” dangles some rootsy acoustic accoutrements where “BlindEye” sizzles in its primal, salty groove.

His 12-string bass, on which one has to press multiple groups of strings with every pluck, has such an massive orchestral range that it’s nearly another singer on the album. It enhances the Beatle-ish “Red” with a ticklish slip-off-the-face-of-the-earth vibe. On “Hey” it anchors the extended outro like a sexy American sitar.

For reasons like this Pinnick has been deemed one of the inventors of grunge by none other than Jeff Ament, the bass player for grunge superstars Pearl Jam. Unfortunately, pioneering this genere never led King’s X to large album sales, but one would figure that the face and voice of the band would lead to modest returns for Massive Grooves…

which might have happened had Pinnick released it under his own name. To the world at large Poundhound was a completely new band, and outside of the metal community it was treated as such: with utter indifference. Eventually his marketing bells went off, and he now issues his solo albums under the name dUg Pinnick. Yes, small “d” and big “U”. Believe or not, he’s not the first person on Uppity Music to apply unique capitalization to his name.

Massive Grooves From The Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

If you appreciate a thick & meaty low end, Massive Grooves From The Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music will rattle your cattle.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Prince cleans his mind, and I call him out.

Busdriver: Cosmic Cleavage (2004)


Like Tigger on Red Bull.

Purchase this album: Amazon 

THE SCENE: In 2002 the supremely abstracted emcee Busdriver released his critically acclaimed second disc Temporary Forever, a sonic snapshot of his madcap visions and theatrical flow. Trading the standard boom-bap for jazz licks he returned in 2004 with the dada-esque European-only Cosmic Cleavage.

You know that kid in first grade who wasn’t supposed to have sugar because it made him hyper?If that kid was a rapper, this is the album he would have made. Busdriver approaches the mic as if every rhyme could be his last, so he raps at breakneck speeds, croons at different pitches and frequently gasps for oxygen, usually all within the same phrase. And with his gift to free associate without an internal censor, his raps ricochet from one subject to the next like a room filled with hundreds of tiny active Spongebob superballs, a thunderous multicolored non-stop shower of energy.

The brilliance of Cosmic Cleavage is the appending of his cartoonish raps to the type of jazz that was actually used in cartoons, circa 1940. The screeching and sleazy horns of the title song evokes wolves in zoot suits brandishing oversized tommy guns down at the speakeasy. Busdriver’s rubbery cadence on “Kev’s Blistering Computer Tan” mimics Popeye’s broken down jalopy, valiantly failing to move its mismatched tires before crashing into a rusty, dust-pooting heap.

Cosmic Cleavage is a concept album on mating and dating. “Nagging Nimbus ” touches on divorce, his trumpet-like voice nearly blending in with the horn section. He’s surrounded by 300 rpm rubber ducks in the girl-focused “Beauty Supply And Demand”, and he works up some unique macking in the demented tango that is “Unnecessary Thinking”.

Constantly changing voices he becomes the ringmaster and tightrope walker of his own animated circus cabaret during “She-Hulk Dehorning The Illusionist”. Can he finish his rap before he runs out of air? Only on the Soul Coughing sound-alike “Pool Drowning” does he relax his one man Muppet Show vocal acrobatics, but it’s merely the eye of his clownish hurricane.

THE FALLOUT: Much like Ren & Stimpy cartoons, Busdriver is an specialized taste, and the tastemakers who flocked to Temporary Forever dropped the increasingly oddball Cosmic Cleavage like the proverbial 16-ton weight. He bounced back the following year with the easier-to-swallow Fear of a Black Tangent.

Cosmic Cleavage is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

Unhinged and unmedicated, Cosmic Cleavage rolls you inside the many cerebral folds of Busdriver’s cortex, and shows you what he’s made from.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Meet dUg (sic).

Post-Election Special! (2008)


It was twenty years ago today…

THE SCENE: I’m in shock. The happy, goosepimply kind of shock, like finding cash in a forgotten pair of pants. A LOT of cash.

The last time I felt this dizzying state of crumbling racial intolerance was in 1988. I was in an all-Black rock band at the time, which by definition meant our band were in it for the love, because there were no successful mainstream Black rock bands. Ever. Fishbone was the only group that was currently on major label, and outside of the modern rock ghetto they never made an impact equal to their talent.

And then came Living Colour. An all-Black rock band on Epic Records? That was Michael Jackson’s label! I bought their CD, Vivid, on sale for $8.99 from The Wherehouse and was blown away with how great it was. Pop songs with clever social commentary and non-stop metal riffs with hints of jazz, African highlife, and hip-hop. In short, an unabashedly rock album, and one that wasn’t selling.

I saw them perform at the Berkeley Square later that year, in front of 85 mostly Black college students – and not even close to a sellout. But they put on one of the most energetic, musical and transcendental concerts I’ve ever witnessed. Every word, every note hit the audience like an Level 5 hurricane. They gave hope to all Black rock musicians that you could at least rise to a college-radio level of acceptance.

And then MTV started playing “Cult of Personality”.

Featuring speech extracts from Malcolm X and John Kennedy, the rifftastic song climbed into the Billboard Top 20, pushing Vivid into the Top 10. Seemingly overnight four intelligent brothers had shattered the Black rock ceiling, sliding through the gauntlet of xenophobia and pain and indifference into a freaking double platinum album. They wrote rock songs about the Black experience and sold them non-Black audience all over America, all over the world! I saw them again during this ascension, at a sold-out concert complete with white rocker chicks in stilettos and beefy rockers dudes in trucker hats.

Without precedent, Living Colour had become cooler than racism. For my band, the nationwide acceptance of Living Colour challenged how high we allowed ourselves to dream.

After watching our country vote in a Black president, I think America believes the concepts of hope and change are also cooler than racism. Finally.

How high can you dream now?

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Back the usual reviews!