Almost every band has that album: you know, the critically and/or commercially reviled dud in an otherwise passable-to-radical back catalogue. Occasionally, a Decibel staffer or special guest will take to the Decibel site to bitch and moan at length as to why everybody’s full of shit and said dud is, in fact, The Shit. This time around, Greg Pratt defends Mind Funk’s Mind Funk.
“But wait,” my esteemed Decibel editor said when I pitched the idea of writing about Mind Funk’s self-titled album for “Justify Your Shitty Taste.” “The band needs an ‘otherwise passable-to-radical back catalogue,’ like the column intro says,” he said, arguing that Mind Funk does not fit the bill. He’s right, but I insisted, given that these dudes between their other bands have a killer back catalogue. He relented, and here we are, talking about Mind Funk in 2016.
Thing is, it’s not altogether odd for me to be talking about Mind Funk, regardless of year: as anyone who knows me is aware, get a couple beers in me and casually bring up both M.O.D. and Reed St. Mark in the same hour (which will happen), and I’m going to bring up this album, and I’m going to defend it. Now I can just email you this link instead, sparing us all that super awkward conversation.
So, to refresh: in 1989, in what I can only assume was more a business meeting than a band jamming situation (but any members of Mind Funk reading this are welcome to correct me; also, good work on the self-titled album!), guys who had played in a litany of diverse hardcore and metal bands came together to play some weirdo alt-metal, and, unfortunately, tossed in the word “funk” in their name to hop in on that burgeoning funk-metal trend (shout-out to Mordred) even though there was basically zero funk in their music. It didn’t sound like any of their previous bands, which included, among others, Celtic Frost, M.O.D., Nirvana, Soundgarden, O.L.D., Sun Red Sun, Ministry, Zoetrope, and Uniform Choice. Holy shit! Do I need to repeat that? That’s berzerk. Now, no one needs to hear what a band who are a cross between Nirvana and Ministry sound like, but a cross between O.L.D. and Zoetrope? Sign me up! Anyway, Mind Funk (later known as Mindfunk, originally known as Mind Fuck) sound like none of that, but their first album is awesome, and here’s why.
Opener “Sugar Ain’t So Sweet,” which I really hope you are listening to right now after clicking that thumbnail right above this, starts with one of the album’s “funkiest” vocal lines and rhymes words like “fixin’” and “addiction,” yes, BUT, stick around: that’s one hell of a cool vocal performance from Pat Dubar, best known for fronting straight-edge punk rock pioneers Uniform Choice and releasing records from Youth of Today; here Dubar sounds more like the dude from Bang Tango (mental note: pitch idea for “Justify that Shitty Band” column), but he’s rockin’ it, hard, and the band is on fire too, coming across like first-album G’n’R more than anything. And everyone likes first-album G’n’R.
The next cut is the very cool “Ride and Drive,” and when I was listening to this when it came out in 1991 and I was 14 I was very unaware how this basically sounds like Angel Rat gone sleaze rock, which absolutely fucking rules and means it is perfect music (I was unaware partially because Mind Funk’s album came out eight months to the day before Angel Rat, which can only lead me to wonder if Voivod took some influence from Mind Funk and oh my good god I am not getting any sleep tonight). I was also always confused about what “ride and drive” meant when I was 14. I’m 39 now and still don’t get it, but this tune rules. It’s not funky (I can’t stress that point enough: THIS BAND IS NOT FUNK), and it rocks hard and weird, like Hanoi Rocks discovering dissonant prog-metal chords. And when it picks up double-time at the end? Forget it.
Next up (and damn right I’m going through every song here; this is probably the last time any human being will ever write about Mind Funk’s self-titled album, so let’s do it right) is “Bring It On,” a slow-burning alt-doom near-grunge tune that evokes Trouble at their most majestic and Soundgarden at their most metal. It’s easily one of the album’s most credible tunes if you’re trying to convince your drinking buds that this stuff is good, and considering I’m trying to convince the entire world this album is good right now, best I can say is click that thumbnail above and, in the words of Dubar, “get down.” But not in a funky way! No funk to be found.
Now, if there’s one song you remember from this album, it’s probably “Big House Burning.” And, uh, okay… there’s some funk here. That intro is positively shitty Suicidal, the vocal line is positively annoying, and I’m only putting the thumbnail above to be fair and balanced, but take your confirmation bias and bugger off because this song may suck but it’s also been stuck in my head for two and a half decades, which says something, right? (Also, does this writing gig come with health insurance? I need help.)
Okay, moving along, we come to the end of side one with “Fire” (note: if you ever watch this on YouTube, ignore the comment where someone suggests a band who sound like a cross between Undertow and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, because this world can not handle such horrible things) (note: I loved Undertow as a young man; RHCP is the horrible part and they only relentlessly get brought up when Mind Funk is around because of Mind Funk’s stupid name). This tune is another slow alt-sludge doomster, one that has tons of cool riffs that stoner bands would go nuts over, a melodic chord progression to remember, and the ability to pull off being compelling for six and a half minutes, in the all-important “last song on side 1” position, to boot.
Seems like I should mention Warrior Soul somewhere around here, speaking of early-’90s brainy metal that gets way worse of a rap than it should. So: Warrior Soul! Now, first song on side 2 here is “Blood Runs Red,” which gets things rockin’ again after “Fire”’s slow, long trip through doom; tempting to call this one “almost funky” (those chords at 2:55 threaten to feel a groove, no doubt) and Dubar does this really unfortunate vocal thing at 1:06 and 2:06 and 3:20 which I can never forgive him for, but the song is a cool mid-tempo rocker that flirts with sleaze rock and brainy metal equally, which sort of means it’s stupid and smart all at once, which, really, sums up why we (or I, at least, but hopefully you after today) love Mind Funk.
Okay, before we get into the next song, “Sister Blue,” I’d like to remind you that it was 1991 and this was on a major label and come on everyone does it so can we the suits at Epic just twist your arm to do one acoustic song and we’ll make a video kinda like that Extreme one but you can add in a bit of your quirkiness you weird artists you? Fine. Moving along. What, I forgot to put a link to the video here? Really? Hmm. Weird.
Can I mention how cool I think it is that after Mind Funk was dropped from Epic after this album they called their second album Dropped? Excellent. Into the final three now, and you’re getting really close to clicking away from this, so in the interest of converting you to loving this band and getting a Mind Funk tattoo on your face tomorrow, let’s do it rapid fire: “Woke Up this Morning” is more slow, brainy, Soundgardenian melodic sludge; “Innocence” is a straight-ahead upbeat rocker with a most excellent chorus; “Touch You” ends off the album with a walk back through the late-night streets of any-sleazy-town USA ’91 (okay, with a hint of funk in the guitar work), but viewed from a thoughtful, analytical place: Love/Hate is playing on the car stereo and the doors are locked, but you can see the junkies, you know?
Then it’s over. And that was a good fucking album.
So what I’m getting at is this: the stupid name killed this band. There’s only a teeny, totally surmountable bit of funk on the album; this is smart alt-metal, the kind that most of us loved back in 1991 and 1992, so cut the crap with brushing this band off: this is legitimately good stuff. And this is not a funk metal band. One more time, because no article this long about Mind Funk will ever be written again:
Mind Funk were not a funk metal band. And this is a good fucking album.