Octave Pussy: If the Funk Don’t Fit Force It (2017)

By Scott Goldfine

||| HASHTAGS: #Funk; #P-Funk; #OctavePussy; #George Clinton |||

This Netherlands funk band with the provocative name remains true to its long-established groove-centric pedigree on the throbtastic “If the Funk Don’t Fit Force It” (a play on Parliament’s 1975 track “If It Don’t Fit (Don’t Force It)” and Kellee Patterson’s 1977 hit “If It Don’t Fit Don’t Force It”), its fourth album. Although relatively unknown in the United States and documentation of its history sketchy at best, OctavePussy (OPY) came together in the late 1990s and established itself as a wild and wonderful live act on stages throughout Holland, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The seven-member group (only six are pictured in the CD’s interior artwork) seems to record its music in fits and spurts, releasing its debut in 2001 and follow-up four years later, but then taking a 10-year absence before unleashing “Assfunk” in 2015 and now the latest disc just two years later. Notably, having attracted the attention and respect of George Clinton, the band also put out an EP in 2003 (“The Life of the Funkshipz Captain”) featuring Dr. Funkenstein himself and top members of the P-Funk horde. It marked several such collaborations, including some of the best songs on the new platter.

Through those years, OPY has gone through several personnel changes with membership that, when a full horn section was in tow, has swelled to a dozen or more. Those shifting lineups have scarcely deterred the group from pursuing its musical mission, or diminished its often awesome power as a volcanic force of unadulterated, down-and-dirty, greasy-grimy funk. Just the way I like it!

The core holdouts comprising the ensemble today are Longsleevemastah (vocals, guitar), Wahaze (musical director; guitar, keyboards), LPJ (drums) and Efartu La Tuheru (vocals, bass, guitar). The first two gents, brothers Steven and Joris Van Rijn, formed the group in 1998 and cite among their influences: Parliament-Funkadelic, James Brown & The JB’s, Bootsy Collins, Temptations, Four Tops, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Fela Kuti and Public Enemy.

The group’s zany nicknames and those of other bandmates past and present (many using a multitude of different handles), along with their colorful attire and whimsical album and song titles and lyrics, reflect OPY’s penchant to let it all hang out. One should probably expect no less from the hedonistic land of Amsterdam.

There is some precedent for Dutch musical crossover to American ears, including Eddie Van Halen and Golden Earing on the rock side of the spectrum and Urban Dance Squad (1989’s “Deeper Shade of Soul”) and saxophonist Candy Dulfer (Prince) on the funkier end. It has been a kick the past couple of decades to witness homegrown funk acts surfacing around the globe, from Europe to Japan to Australia and many spots in between.

Each one puts a bit of its country of origin spin on the genre, which can be a good thing in that it keeps the music from coming off as a retread. However, particularly when English is not be the native language, some of the flavor or authenticity can get lost in the translation. Both those pros and cons are evident in OPY’s sound, which vocally can teeter on campiness but instrumentation wise pours the funk on as thick as year-old molasses.

The vocal element has been boosted immeasurably when other female singers have been featured and also when the Funk Mob has lent a hand. Repeated listening eases the adverse effects of any singing limitations and it also helps to zero in on the merciless grooves. To their great credit, OPY pens its own original tunes, most of which pack infectious rhythms and chant-style choruses.

The 10-track “If the Funk Don’t Fit Force It” wastes no time jumping into killer beats, bumping bass lines, and chunky, slinky and screaming guitars by launching the 50-minute party with the moderately paced “Everybody Funky.” That opener serves up an aural eargasm not unlike how the title cut kicked off Bootsy’s 1977 classic, “Ah … the Name Is Bootsy, Baby!” From there the funk fires on all cylinders throughout (no romantic ballads allowed!), slowing only for the reggae-inspired “The Light of the Friendly People.”

Highlights along the way include the peppy “Gigmuh (Girl, I’m Gonna Make U Hot)” and the Funkadelic-dipped, hypnotic grinder “If U Like the Music.” However, the two top standouts are the synth-driven title track, which ascends to another level courtesy of Mr. Clinton’s involvement, and the closing epic, “Catch My Clue (First Part & Part 2).” The latter tune, with its snaky keyboards, earth-rumbling bass and overdriven guitar noodling, is easily among the best new funk tracks released this decade.

The bottom line is if you are a funk fan you are going to enjoy OPY’s latest, and if new to the band may find it worthwhile to hunt the group’s other releases down on the Internet. If these guys ever tour the U.S., in particular North Carolina, I will see you there!

RATING: B+