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This dog chases nobody's tail but his own

By Jason Heller

Check out Dope Dogs sound clips at
The Planet of Sound.

Opening with "Dog Star (Fly On)," a guitar-blazin' paean to Eddie Hazel, P-Funk's late great Hendrix disciple Dope Dogs, George Clinton's latest salvo of nasty (that's nastay), seems to hold all the promise of a great P-Funk album. It's got ludicrously foreboding chants ("Once upon a shine, a long time aglow..."), sizzling guitar crunch, and a groove that makes you shake body parts you never knew you had. For at least a little while, it seems like the ghosts of funkateers past are back to answer the question they asked on their 1970 debut album--"What is soul?!"

It ain't this. Dope Dogs, a comic song cycle of drugs, sex, and rock 'n' roll (in that order), tries so hard to reach down into the deepest chasm of funkiness--do you expect any less from Dr. Funkenstein?--that it works up a sweat. But these canned jams sound more like P-Funk's "Atomic Dog" is chasing its own tail around and around never really getting anywhere.

Exhibit A: "Some Next Shit." Built on a souped-up hip-hop drumloop, this logjam of a jam quickly turns into a samplefest of "Name That P-Funk Tune." Let's see, I can name that tune in three notes--there are samples of "Flash Light," "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)," and "Up For the Down Stroke," along with at least four other P-Funk classics thrown into the mix. Sure, the groove lights a fire under your ass, but your mind doesn't follow--it's just a bunch of recycled musical ideas and lyrical themes. All that "Some Next Shit" proves is that the Grandaddy of All Things Funky can patch together samples of his own music and call it a new song. It's a neat trick, but it's not a great formula for an album, to say the least.

And so follows most of Dope Dogs, sniffing around for the good stuff but never quite picking up the funky trail. Sure, lyrics like "One dingie-lingie, I salivate/ Two dingie-lingies and I hallucinate/ Three dingie-lingies and ejaculate" from "Just Say Ding (Databoy)" provide all the equal-opportunity nasties that you'd expect from P-Funk, and George Clinton's lascivious smokier-than-thou voice is still good to your earhole--but the music lags on every track.

"Back on the Wall," with its trebly drum machine loop and über-'80s guitar wails (think early Scorpions), makes you wonder exactly what's going on in Dr. Funkenstein's lab--it sounds like he smoked his considerable production skills into oblivion. The song sounds like one of P-Funk's 15 guitarists (all listed in the album credits) found a 1982 outtake in an old studio pile and convinced curious George to slap it on the album. Calling it out of touch with the black aesthetic or just plain derivative would be a compliment.

Dope Dogs works best on tracks like "Pepe (The Pill Popper)," a "Chocolate City"-styled rap ditty over a minimalist keyboard-horns-percussion thang that allows the lyrics to stand out. Wordplay like "A better breed of Dope Dog/ Queen Canine, never catch me/ chasin' a feline/ Extend your hand and some might lick it/ Toss a stick, some might run and fetch it/ It takes more than a bone jones" deserves to be heard. But "Pepe" is an exception to the rule: Dope Dogs buries most of its dope rhymes in musical dog poo.

But it's not all bad. The album's best song, "All Sons of Bitches," swings so hard that it hurts. It's a hip-hop-fried update of "Atomic Dog"-era P-Funk, with a sultry vocal hook that'll keep you begging and panting for more. But the rest of Dope Dogs is just nibbles and bits of the bizarre, irresistibly nasty P-Funk that can still tear the roof off at every live show. (Dogone)

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