Funkadelic, The Electric Spanking Of War Babies (1981)

Funkadelic, The Electric Spanking Of War Babies (1981)

Clinton admitted in his autobiography that the final Funkadelic album for 33 years “wasn’t exactly what I wanted.” His coke-addled misadventures with musical collaborator Sly Stone, his struggles with getting his own ill-fated Uncle Jam Records label off the ground, and his squabbles with ship-jumping bandmates turned what could’ve been a fantastic concept record into an underfocused wind-down. Considering how massive his solo cut “Atomic Dog” was the following year, and given the overall strength of Computer Games as an album, Clinton clearly wasn’t out of ideas and hadn’t lost his commercial appeal. But there’s a reason that album was billed as a solo joint: the P-Funk empire was falling apart, and keeping it all together was more of a strain on the once-strong entity than it could withstand. It didn’t help that Warner Bros. lost their faith in the band — they short-sold the LP (less than 100,000 copies were pressed) and made the unprecedented move of censoring Pedro Bell’s suggestive cartoon sleeve.

That’s tragic, given how right-place-right-time The Electric Spanking Of War Babies should’ve been — a flirtation with New Wave that nailed every ’80s corporate-government, mass-media manipulation shock doctrine fear while the decade was still in its Reagan-deregulated infancy. And it’s still strong enough to make a decent endcap to a stretch of decade-spanning wire-to-wire career greatness. First there’s the title track, an examination of the still-popular charges of Baby Boomer sellout syndrome, where a two-man operation (Hampton on guitar, Junie on everything else) bring up the formative experiences of nuclear fear, Vietnam, genetic science, and the Moon landing as media-mediated programming to mess up young minds.”Oh, I,” despite being originally slated for Parliament’s Trombipulation, fits the vibe well, too; Shider-wailed lyrics about escaping into memories of a lost love over a staggering blend of cocktail-jazz sax/piano and from-the-gut Hampton guitar give the album its wistful heart. The two-part “Funk Gets Stronger” stays defiant in the face of encroaching cultural defunkification, loping Mudd Club twitchiness giving Sly his most enigmatically compelling vocal performance since There’s A Riot Goin’ On. Even the musically off moments have merit; hearing Funkadelic do extended pan-Carribean drum solos (“Brettino’s Bounce”) and Blondie-adjacent reggae (“Shockwaves”) feels out of character, but the communication to other reaches of the diaspora (“the third world is on the one… sending out shockwaves throughout the world”) is worth the effort. And maybe the smutty satire “Icka Prick” is a bizarre note to go out on, but tweaking prudes years before the PMRC were a glint in Tipper Gore’s jaundiced eye is as good a legacy-cementer as anything.

Hi. It looks like you're using an ad blocker.

As an independent website, we rely on our measly advertising income to keep the lights on. Our ads are not too obtrusive, promise. Would you please disable adblock?