Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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George Clinton

  • Computer Games [Capitol, 1982] A
  • You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish [Capitol, 1983] A
  • Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends [Capitol, 1985] A-
  • R&B Skeletons in the Closet [Capitol, 1986] B+
  • The Best of George Clinton [Capitol, 1986] B+
  • The Cinderella Theory [Paisley Park/Warner Bros., 1989] A-
  • Hey Man . . . Smell My Finger [Paisley Park, 1993] A-
  • Greatest Funkin' Hits [Capitol, 1996] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Computer Games [Capitol, 1982]
Nothing on this mature work of art will tear the roof off any mothersucker--Dr. Funkenstein's earthshaking jams are past. But that's hardly to suggest that he's lost his sense of rhythm or hermeneutics. In other words, if your ears say you've heard some of these grooves before, don't tell your ass about it and your mind'll never be the wiser. Clinton has deepened in the wake of his failure to turn the planet upside-down, and this is his most flawless album, paced and orchestrated without a dead spot and thought through like a mothersucker. Even the earthshaking jams of the past are accounted for, and in two or three different ways. Man's best friend spelled backwards is? And why would anyone want to spell it backwards? A

You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish [Capitol, 1983]
This isn't as smart as Computer Games, or as soulful either--success will always go to George's head. So be thankful the head is a capacious one, and connected to his rump. Side one leads off with his version of The African King and quickly proves his most irresistible since Motor-Booty Affair, with "Quickie" a riff/groove that gleams like "Flash Light" and "Last Dance" a big fat fart in David Bowie's face. Even the talkover filler on the title track is worth listening to, and Philippe Wynne's lowdown oinks make "Stingy" a worthy heir to none other than the Coasters' "I'm a Hog for You." A

Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends [Capitol, 1985]
Some of his best jokes are rhythm parts, too, which isn't going to help the Thomas Dolby fans pick up on them. Oh well, they got their chance on Computer Games and Bit Fish and who bought those? The same tackheads who've always passed George their grift. So here he pulls Dolby in for real computer games, thus convincing Capitol that he's reached the proper pitch of commercial desperation, and then makes an antiwar record with dirty parts just like always--except that this time the antiwar stuff is very explicit. I wish it included something as ingratiating as "Atomic Dog" or "Quickie" or "Last Dance." But when he augments the drum machine with a flute solo and a middle-aged man gasping in the throes of sexual excitation, this tackhead-by-association can't resist. A-

R&B Skeletons in the Closet [Capitol, 1986]
Conceptually, featured vocalist Vanessa Williams and Pedro Bell's Neegrow cover are the only coups. Lyrically you'll have to settle for pidgin pygmy here, title credo there, some fast-food jokes, and the cautionary "Cool Joe." Groovewise it's Clonesville. In short, George's flattest in a decade. And you'd still settle for it in Boise. B+

The Best of George Clinton [Capitol, 1986]
The best-of has always been a dubious consumer service: even when it's a genuine bargain, it allows bizzers to make money off the same music twice, and don't think they don't love every dollar of it. In this case one of the bizzers is the artiste, who already stuck two of these cuts onto that strange half-live, half-compilation "mini-album" earlier this year. There's not much arguing with the individual selections. Since it reshuffles the entire first side of You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish, the most playable Clinton of the '80s if not all time, it's stronger cut for cut than that one, and it's a better dance record than Atomic Dog. But it's totally lacking in epistemological integrity, and if you think that's a ridiculous thing to say about a funk album, you've got placebo syndrome--George knows what I'm talking about, and without a dictionary. B+

The Cinderella Theory [Paisley Park/Warner Bros., 1989]
Except for the ballad (George, how could you), there isn't a a track here that doesn't stick out its tongue at the merely cliched. The first side isn't vintage, it's kinda fresh: guitar find and/or Rogers Nelson clone Tracey Lewis contributes a lite opener about getting down by never coming down, Chuck and Flav climb into bed with George's paisley hosts, "Why Should I Dog You Out?" rallies canines everywhere. Later, "French Kiss" sticks out its tongue for real. As happened so often when he ruled the world, the luck of the funk isn't always with him. But give Rogers Nelson credit for asking him back. A-

Hey Man . . . Smell My Finger [Paisley Park, 1993]
Half rap album the way so many rap albums these days are half P-Funk albums, it's never stronger musically than when one of a galaxy of rapping starchildren, most forcefully Humpty Hump and Ice Cube, is adding his or Yo Yo's natural rhythms to those of Uncle George, whose original-rapping was long ago extended technically by his extended family. For all their shows of militance, though, the kids's minds still haven't followed their asses as intrepidly as the old man's. And on "Dis Beat Disrupts" and "Get Satisfied," among others, his own beats beat all. A-

Greatest Funkin' Hits [Capitol, 1996]
A remix album, not a best-of, and one that avoids the promotional overkill and commercial double jeopardy of its half-assed demigenre. The live track, the previously unreleased, the remakes from the unnoteworthy R&B Skeletons and the unnoticed Jimmy G., the woofing bookends, the recycled P-Funk classics--all are renewed and of a piece. One secret weapon is youngbloods who owe him, including the Miss America he saved from the bluenoses and a typically nonjudgmental range of excellent rappers--Ice Cube and Q-Tip, Coolio and Busta Rhymes, Humpty Hump and Ol' Dirty Bastard. Another is Clinton's perpetually renewable tracks, which are always of a piece. A

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