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Clinton's Anti-pop

RECORD RACK

June 01, 1986|DON WALLER

"R&B SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET." George Clinton. Capitol. Adding a fresh twist--or maybe an old Watusi--to the term "savage humor," longtime funk poobah George Clinton has unleashed the anti-pop album of the year. Parodying current pop conventions while attempting to exploit them to the max, "Skeletons" is--for all the wisecracks of its title track--less a throwback than a throwdown, unfortunately only half of which sounds as whacked-out as it does hacked-out.

Take the first single, "Do Fries Go With That Shake." Despite the delicious double-entendre of the title, the jam simply lacks the stick-to-the-rib-joint quality necessary to sink your teeth into. Similarly, "Mix-Master Suite" blends scratch effects with snatches of "Sgt. Pepper"-era psychedelicisms that collapse into solipsism way before its eight minutes-plus are up.

So much for bones of contention. Powered by a \o7 monster \f7 bass line, "Hey Good Lookin' " is musically leaner than anything Clinton has done recently, although he still keeps the intricate, usual-gang-of-idiots vocals--in this case, funkateer Bootsy Collins and dethroned Miss America Vanessa Williams--that George ought to have a patent on by now. Tough stuff.

Ditto for "Electric Pygmies," which builds from African chants into a blistering, jungle git-tar boogie that'll plaster dancers to the ceiling, let alone roaches to the walls. "Intense," which lives up to its title, and "Cool Joe," a cautionary hustler's tale, provide "R&B Skeletons in the Closet" with its most humorous moments.

However, the ultimate test of Clinton's "anti-pop" concepts--as expressed in the stellar LP cover art and liner notes--is whether his audience accepts these precepts in the form of bankable success. If not, there's always plastic surgery, skin lighteners and blah-blah my lady boring-boring ballads. . . .

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