Agony Shorthand

Sunday, March 30, 2003
THE END-OF-THE-WORLD ARMAGEDDON FUNK ALBUM YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR….Holy god. There’s this semi-recent (i.e. less than 2 years old), ultra-mysterious sub-underground funk compilation CD making the rounds called “CHAINS & BLACK EXHAUST” that will absolutely blow you away (and I’m not one to engage in hyperbole, folks – right? Right?). Known also to some as “MEMPHIX”, one might be led to believe that these early 70s recordings are in fact from Memphis, Tennessee. I’m willing to believe it. It’s a wild mix of instrumentals, hardcore funk workouts lifted straight from the original 45s (with pops and clicks galore), and even a couple of unfunny “skits” to help lighten the mood. There is little-to-no information about who these bands are or who put this thing together, with at least four of the instrumental tracks going completely uncredited. The individual(s) responsible must certainly have been scouring the thrift stores with extreme prejudice for years to pull together a lineup this potent. From my limited cyber-research, these heroes appear to be two “disc jockeys” or “turntable funksters” who call themselves MEMPHIX. I’ll have to buy them a Blatz next time I’m in Tennessee.

Guitars are squealing freely all over this thing – and you thought FUNKADELIC had mastered the heavy rock and roll/funk hybrid? Check yo’self, “dogg”, and take a listen to “Blind Eye” from LA CARNIVAL before flapping your gums further. The showstopper is indeed “Show Stopper” from IRON KNOWLEDGE (Iron Knowledge!!) -- it opens with a crazy distorted guitar riff that sounds like nothing if not the opening seconds of the Butthole Surfers' “Concubine”, and proceeds as a groovy monster that vacillates lyrically between stopping the war and getting it on. Hey, the early 70s were confusing times. But again, this comp is straddling freak-flag-flying rock & roll just as heavily as it is ghetto funk. There’s no mistaking the sentiment behind GRAND AM’s excellent “Get High”, as well as a truly raging one from HOT CHOCOLATE (definitely a different beast than “You Sexy Thing” Hot Chocolate) called “What’s Good For The Goose”. The (uncredited) instrumentals are also lowdown, heavily funked-up and raw, with that "special" ambiance that comes only from a scratchy, thirty-years-in-a-crate 45rpm record. Motown this is not!

Now where might you find this? Ah yes, our friend Eric over at Goner Records was recently selling them – tell him Agony Shorthand sent ya. Also, here’s an entire thread of soul/funk freaks talking specifically about this comp and their record collections – always a good time. There’s a rumor going around that this might be released again legitimately, with track listings, liner notes etc., which’d be nice since "CHAINS & BLACK EXHAUST" is one of the best unearthings I’ve heard in years.