Parliament, Motor Booty Affair (1978)

Parliament, Motor Booty Affair (1978)

To get an idea of just how hard it was for Clinton to turn his brain off, one of the wildest, most inspired, goofiest and yet most profound Parliament album concepts was inspired during one of his Miami fishing trips. Most people wouldn’t brainstorm off a cartoon lure mascot called Mr. Wiggles, or extrapolate “motor boat” into Motor City into “Motor Booty,” and yet here we are: an album about raising Atlantis from the bottom of the sea using the power of funk. Like the not-so-White House dreams of Chocolate City and the outer-space Afronautics of Mothership Connection and Funkentelechy, Motor Booty Affair slips in a message of black utopia that allows for the inhuman, superhuman, metahuman, and all-around ultrahuman to reach a communal potential that lives through the power of funk, funk in this case being the liberating force that helps people discover their true selves. Also there are fish jokes. A shit-ton of fish jokes.

Clinton was obsessed with making a funk record as ornate and elaborate as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and that shines through in Motor Booty Affair’s dedication to world-building genre-hopping and pure conceptual density in an almost cinematic way. The MC/party organizer introduces himself (“Mr. Wiggles”), the antagonists appear (Sir Nose’s saboteur sidekick “Rumpofsteelskin,” with “dynamite sticks by the megatons in his butt”), there’s a love scene (“(You’re A Fish And I’m A) Water Sign”), the antagonists get what’s coming to them (“Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)”), there’s an extended party (“One Of Those Funky Thangs”; “Liquid Sunshine”; the Howard Codsell soiree-reportage of the title track), and the whole thing climaxes as they “raise Atlantis to the top/ With the bop” at the finale of the sociological turmoil-riddled “Deep.” That this final track is their most explicit, omnidirectional assault on political cynicism, union corruption, and laid-bare racism — there’s even a Sieg Heil! chant in there somewhere — just makes it the most anthemic R&B protest song of the late ’70s.

Like the other ’78 P-Funk classic of that year, Junie Morrison had a major presence in this album’s loopy, ornate sensibility. What Junie brought to One Nation Under A Groove was a revelation; what he added to his first Parliament album was an overload. And not one of those that leaves you out of energy, either — in following with Clinton’s grand-scope aspirations for a song-and-dance blowout of a record, he works with Bernie, Bootsy, and horn arranger Richard “Kush” Griffith to make this their absolute peak in going all-out with hyperactive synthesizers, booming brass fanfares, and contortionist basslines. First-side cuts like the synchronized sleekness of hit “Aqua Boogie” and the twitchy glide of “Rumpofsteelskin” brought the party jams, while the staggering second side — featuring the most rousing synth/bass/vocals interplay in the whole P-Funk discography — hits the dancefloor and the headspace at the same time with both barrels. The only thing dislodging the hooks from each of these songs are the ones on the subsequent tracks — the burbling undersea vocals of “One Of Those Funky Thangs” into the psych-pop-disco chorus of “Liquid Sunshine,” into the 20,000-league-deep bass bounce of “The Motor-Booty Affair,” into the martial groove of “Deep” and its synthesized low-end charge. This is the last P-Funk record that really felt like a major event, a massive undertaking that capped an overstuffed stretch filled with hectic tours and copious side projects that proved to be the final year of P-Funk’s peak. And they went out spectacularly.

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