Funk in the Trunk

Captain Beefheart, "Plastic Factory" (Buddah; 1967).

Captain Beefheart, "Pachuco Cadaver" (Straight; 1969).

Old Time Relijun, "The Blood and the Milk" (K; 2005). eMusic

Velvet Underground, "White Light/White Heat" (Verve; 1968). iTunes

Archie Shepp, "Black Gypsy" (Prestige; 1969).

Sonic Youth, "Burning Spear" (Neutral; 1982).

Lee Fields, "Get on the Good Foot" (Soul Fire; 2002). iTunes

Kool G Rap, "Cakes" (Loud/RCA; 2000).

Notorious B.I.G., "Machine Gun Funk" (Bad Boy Entertainment; 1994).

Minutemen, "Maybe Partying Will Help" (SST; 1984).

Kim Salmon & the Surrealists, "Melt Pt. 2" (Black Eye; 1989).

ESG "Get Funky" (Soul Jazz; 1983).

Old Time Relijun, "Cold Water" (K; 2004). iTunes

Sick Bees, "Saint Helen's" (Up; 2000). iTunes

Essential Logic "The Order Form (I Want to Order a Pelican)" (Rough Trade; 1979). iTunes

Pere Ubu, "Ubu Dance Party" (Rough Trade; 1979).

I've spent most of my life staying far away from anything and everything that's funky. I love the bass guitar, but I dislike what happens to it when its players start slapping the strings in a manner that invites folks to extend their necks to and fro like chickens. I really dislike that, and I dislike bass lines that are too busy, too showy, or too groovy. In fact, I dislike anything and everything that's groovy, too—or at least that's the assumption I've always operated on. And then last year, on the eight- or nine-hundredth time that I played Old Time Relijun's Lost Light straight through, it occurred to me that, goddamn, this shit was funky. And groovy. And that that's what made it so good. Because I grew up in a little hippie town and went to school with people who had names like Sundance, and because I always saw myself as a nonparticipant in things like bread baking and wooden-boat building and I ran off to the biggest city in America as soon as I got my chance, this realization was not unlike a therapeutic breakthrough. There is funk in me! There is funk in you! It's been there all along!

I won't pretend that this is any kind of funk primer, and I won't pretend that I want to listen to any kind of funk primer. I have embraced my inner groove, but I don't really care to party with Sly & the Family Stone. That's just not my thing—as you can probably tell by the fact that several of these tracks don't really groove or funk at all, they just sound good next to tracks that do. OTR's "The Blood and the Milk" really could have been something that Lou Reed might have written if he'd stumbled upon the truly kind bud while recording the second Velvet Underground album. But no, "White Light/White Heat" itself isn't really funky. And the Sick Bees track doesn't actually groove; it's just that Starla is the only singer I know who can get down with a growl as well as Arrington de Dionysus does. But the Minutemen track? That's straight funk. The Sonic Youth song from their first EP? So tribal. And stop calling Pere Ubu post-punk. It's OK, really. It's cool; free your mind and the funk will follow.

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