Music News

Trouble Funk

Go-go music was Washington, D.C.,'s contribution to the world of funk during the late '70s and early to mid-'80s. It burst on the scene as complete party music, with slower tempos and a premium placed on crowd interaction. Hardly song-based, this was all about the rhythm and stretching out that rhythm all night long. A lot of people expected it to blow up right alongside hip-hop, but go-go music never seemed to catch on, despite some big hits with Chuck Brown's seriously funky "Bustin' Loose," Rare Essence's "Body Moves," and, much later, E.U.'s insanely catchy and ridiculous "Da Butt." But no one played it harder and better than Trouble Funk, as this single-disc reissue on Henry Rollins' label will prove.

Trouble Funk's combination of extended, stripped-down party jams and call-and-response audience-baiting techniques was so perfect, it seemed to be choreographed in advance. Live was originally a double album with four songs, each running about 15 minutes. The band seamlessly digs into the party vibe, integrating lazy cowbells and all manner of clanging percussion into a groove that is part pure funk and part futuristic electro-soul. The crowd, meanwhile, sounds ravenous. The band had enough brains to realize it didn't need to dress it up too much like its P-Funk kin; Trouble Funk could just lock into a rhythm and play until infinity.

Early Singles doesn't go quite so far out as the live record does, getting into shorter, almost song-based material. But that doesn't mean it doesn't rule. Two decades of watered-down funk and way too many funny hats have made it easy to forget just how bizarre, hard-hitting, and monumental this music could be in its purest form. For the most part, bass-slapping should be criminalized, but here, it's a necessity. If you've forgotten how good "Trouble Funk Express" is, you need to get reacquainted: It's the heaviest, sweatiest, most soulful party band-covering-Kraftwerk ever. Only Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" comes close to capturing something this good. If you've lived your life without ever spending at least a good hour getting lost in these monstrously tight grooves, it's time to make a change.

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Jon Pruett