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The Mothership

[whitespace] George Clinton George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars land at the Catalyst

By Nicky Baxter

The last time funk overlord George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars invaded the South Bay, two years ago, the group huffed and puffed its way through a two-hour set that witnessed the long-awaited landing of the fabled Mothership.

The gaudy, aluminum-faced sky boat descended from the rafters onto Shoreline's stage and Clinton--unfortunately, he looked somewhat, um, spaced-out. Not a good sign. As longtime followers of the Funk mob know, if Clinton is out of it, the going can be tough. The often ramshackle numbers started brightly but then faded to a dull glow.

Every so often, however, Clinton would snap to, goading the crew to get off its collective ass and jam. And outfitted in such sartorial weirdness as diapers and wedding gowns, P-Funk would respond with sharply turned renditions of such scatological gems as "Atomic Dog" and "Flashlight." The collective also banged out a particularly nasty version of "Dog Star (Fly On)" from the album of the same name.

The new release Dope Dogs proffers a heady cocktail of roiling rhythms, Hendrixian fretmanship and wild-eyed conspiracy-laced rantings, taking Clinton's peculiar fascination with the four-legged creatures to its illogical extreme. This is a concept album rife with waggish tales.

"U.S. Custom Coast Guard Dope Dog" is a hilariously scattershot joint about coke-sniffing canines, C.I.A.-funded drug cartels and other government-sponsored mischief. "All Sons of Bitches" is a booming, bass synth-grounded ditty about a united front of male and female bowzers panting to seize the reins of power. The chanted chorus flaunts a wayward nod to Sly Stone's "Stand!"

Along with James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, George Clinton and his P-Funk posse helped midwife modern postsoul music. His perverse alchemy of doo-wop, horn-heavy R&B and guitar rock has reconfigured black (and white) pop's perimeters. Topped off with Clinton's zanily outlandish gibberish touting Chocolate Cities and Black White Houses this was a ballsy hybrid music like no other. Clinton is as much an instigator as he is a singer.

Sure, he's crafted some awfully cool tunes ("Loose Booty," anyone?) but it is his outrageous persona that busted open the floodgates for the likes of the Artist, Fishbone and a gaggle of other goofy groove makers. George Clinton put the fun in funk. And, as Clinton has always insisted, funk is the very stuff of life.

George Clinton performs Saturday (April 3) at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz; doors at 8:30pm; $37 door/$35 adv; 16+; 831.423.1336.

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Web extra to the March 31-April 7, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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