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Phat Phunktion | Real Life...High Fidelity

album review by Maren Johnson

Phat Phunktion | Real Life...High Fidelity

Their name, Phat Phunktion, speaks for itself, really, a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but certainly aren’t parodies. No, on Real Life…High Fidelity the nine-piece, joined by several guests, pull out a hundred funky hooks. The super tight album has a clear coat finish, holding on to 70’s style intensity, (like the groping Parliament-esque keys on the opening track), and yet feeling very new school.

Overall, the album has one interstellar high note: the horns. Al Falaschi, Courtney Larsen, Jon Schipper, and Jim Doherty are wound together so tightly that their horn lines are like beams of light. They are what the visualizer on your iTunes was meant for. They bleed in, they strike, they hold the tempo, and they scorch.

If there’s a failing, it’s the vocals, which aren’t bad, but they are uninspired and feel, at times, forced; especially because during the instrumental spots it’s Lettuce-level cooperation. The lyrics are generally hopeful, upbeat, and sincere, but break little new ground. Phat Phunktion does have a sense of melody, which really ups the vocals.

“You Want it All” opens the album, Tim Whalen’s gushy keys start us off, and then everything piles on. Nick Moran keeps his bass heavy and rounded. While hit and miss vocal were just mentioned, here, they hit. Fun, relaxed: “Learning, learning, learning/feed the fire,” it goes; “We all need a reason for living.” Again, it’s the interplay of the instruments that really makes it meaty.

“Eyes of Mine” keeps the vibe rolling. Turbo Murray’s snare keeps simple time. When the bass comes in with start-stop funk, the harmony vocals sound really good. “Turn around and face the other side.” The song swirls with Vincent Jesse’s sparkling guitar. “We all live in vain sometimes,” the song goes, and it’s proof that some Phat Phunktion songs have wonderfully fulfilling lyrics.

A good example of the weaker end is, “Knockin’ em Down”. “When the clock strikes five/I’ll be leavin’,” it goes; “Get dressed up/gonna shake off these blues.” So, it’s fun, but sandwiched between songs like “Eyes of Mine” and the exceptional “Competition”, it’s a weak link with its quickly written lyrics and loss of funk feel for pop steadiness.

“Competition” bounces with Tower of Power slinkiness. The horns lay back here, and the whole band seems totally in touch with the music. It’s proof that funk doesn’t always have to explode to be truly funky, and their reserved groove succeeds.

Another song tries to little avail: “Dance in the rain,” which starts with slow acoustic guitar and, “The color of your eyes/like the ocean skies/so blue.” It’s a corny ballad nestled in a thick bed of funk. “Holdin’ your hand/smile on my face...” Unfortunately, with all the party power Phat Phunktion has, at times they drip with cheese. This isn’t always a bad thing, but some songs dredge up watching the silent meeting of young lovers at the climax of an 80s film, and “Dance in the Rain” is that soundtrack.

In fact, be prepared for moments of elevator music groove, which at times is just what the doctor ordered. Real Life…High Fidelity is a party record. Put it on, serve cocktails, and boogy in the basement. Again, they don’t take themselves too seriously, so every time you feel like you’re riding up to the third floor it’s a purposeful break in the oftentimes gritty funk. And it’s even better if you own an elevator.

If you need a reason to love Phat Phunktion, look no further than “Well Run Dry”, which is anything but what I was referring to about “Dance in the Rain”. This one bubbles, spits, and makes a booty bump.

Bottom line: A super funky look at of funkiness, focused wholeheartedly on the party and not concerned with breaking ground.


 

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