When once the radicals were atheists, hustlers, and self-removed rebels, we've entered an era when the radicals laud their faith in Christ and promote sobriety popularly. There's overwhelming sacredness to this era. I'm thinking of Matthew 7:14, “but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”; of authors absorbed in Hassidic stories of “the world to come” and images of purification by fire; of film embedded with religion and religious ideology; of Kanye's “Jesus Walks” and Kendrick's “Real.” Appropriately, Dam-Funk (Damon Garret Riddick) brings with him a similar sense of purpose. A kind of reiteration of its predecessor, toeachizown, his new album, Invite the Light, reflects the history of its genre while highlighting a spirituality essential to the moment. But it's not a matter of whether it belongs now, but whether it'll be remembered later.
The album has no problem reminding us of the past. Between guest appearances from the unforgettable Snoop Dogg (“Just Ease Your Mind From All Negativity”), hall-of-famer Flea (“Floating On Air”), Abstract Poet of A Tribe Called Quest Q-Tip (“I'm just Tryna' Survive (In The Big City)”), and all the way back to Funk central, one of most influential funk musicians - next to George Clinton - Junie Morrison, prominent author of Funkadelic's One Nation Under A Groove, who gives us the opening and closing monologues in “Junie's Transmission” and Re-Transmission. For all this added weight – a problem recently faced by Method Man – it's still smoothing sailing, even if the waves seem too familiar. P-Funk influence here (Parliament-Funkadelic), G-Funk there (Snoop Dogg, and the immortal Warren G), it fills out the space slightly with a speaker sizzling, engulfing bass line and erratic spaciness, but doesn't travel far from its home.
Which is weird, given what an enormous effect Parliament's Mothership Connection has on this album, including the radio-styled speech. Perhaps the problem for me is that Invite the Light takes itself too seriously. There's something morose and dark about Junie's “the upheaval of the human race began to occur because our insistence on removing all elements of the funk,” and Dam-Funk's serpentine trills coming across harangued. Not exactly in the mold of funk beginning with “fun,” as spelled out in Parliament's taking control of the radio 40 years ago, promising to return it “as soon as you are grooving.” It's a strange mirror, drawing upon the extraterrestrial to return power and hope to humanity, which isn't fully reflected in the more cynically minded nature of tracks like “It Didn't Have to End This Way” nor fully flushed out by the time “The Acceptance” arrives. And maybe even more importantly, if it's the Holy Spirit of funk that safely finds its way to us after “Surveillance Escape,” what hope do we have if the spirit is trapped forever away from us? Dam-Funk sees a “Virtuous Progression.” I prefer those who try to make them.