Maggot Brain // Funkadelic

The album cover for Funkadelic's Maggot Brain

We are back in our minds again.

That soft guitar waltzes you into the ballroom of the universe. The drums echo, but do not rush. It is a fragile start. “Maggot Brain” is a captivating, enthralling album opener. The guitar somehow screeches in unnoticed, and the song fills your ears as you step into Funkadelic’s cosmic soundscape. I love albums like these — once you’re in, you’re in for the long haul.

Maggot Brain has the best of both worlds. It gives the listener a broad musical experience while still providing songs that can be individually picked out of the lineup and enjoyed on their own. It’s bookended with two long voyages and filled with shorter funk bops.

The album has a funky, acoustic sound, with a huge vocal range on top of it. “Hit It and Quit It” stands out as the album’s representative song, slowly and steadily wading into shallow waters before waves of jerky sound blast through the speakers. The organ is pumping like the song’s heart.

It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of an album, each instrument like a different body part. To move one’s whole body in accordance with the music is the irresistible allure of the album, and, like Mary Shelley’s creation, it is alive.

“Super Stupid” adds a thrashing energy to the album. Guitars whiz by and drums collapse as the pillars of society come crashing down. It’s industrial, electrifying, and explosive. It does not compromise. It reminds me of the Iron Giant or Dr. Manhattan, a massive, nuclear force to be reckoned with.

Then you hear the waning, twinkling bells of “Back In Our Minds.” This song isn’t the science-fiction punch of “Super Stupid,” but the vocals, rather than the instruments, are at the forefront of this song, at least until the brass calmly takes over.

A painting of a ship in the ice

George Clinton is a mad scientist, wrangling dozens of countering ideas and sounds and turning them into a Gestalt creation, greater than the sum of its individual parts. The album chokes and breathes, walks and runs, writhes and bounces.

It is a little sad to leave behind. “Wars of Armageddon” is, like “Maggot Brain,” a journey. But where the album’s opener is a slow, thoughtful ascension to the soul of the universe, its closer is a chaotic descent back to earth. As the song wails and farts, “Wars of Armageddon” reminds us of the delicate and horrible relationship we have with our own lives before uncaringly pushing us back down the Styx, as we hopelessly clamber onto an ice floe in a desperate attempt to hold onto whatever life we have left.