Mordred's "Esse Quam Videri" is a lost classic in every sense of the word. The funky little ditty, one of the first successful mash ups of hip-hop and heavy metal, is more or less all but lost — you can't download it on iTunes or order it through Amazon. In fact, about the only place you can find the track is on YouTube. Give it a look and listen and imagine what funk metal, the bastard child of thrash and hip-hop, could have been.
Funk metal began promising enough in 1984 with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' self-titled debut, a wild and woolly collection of rap, punk, and funk. While the disc is not one of the Peppers' best, it marked a not-so serious departure from the dance pop of Madonna and Michael, the earnest old-man rock of Springsteen and Mellencamp, and the segregated world of hip-hop.
Over the course of the next five years, the Peppers' further honed their sound with Freaky Styley, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, and 1989's Mother's Milk, but they never lost the one ingredient that linked all of their albums — their stupid surfer-boy, skate-punk, jackass-in-training sense of humor. Combining the crass with the silly, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, and their ever-changing bandmates sang about, skinny sweaty men in green suits, intercourse with porpoises, and Yertle the Turtle. It was all so gloriously dumb.
While the Peppers enjoyed some minor success with the song "Knock Me Down" and a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," they never scored a chart-topper with anything off Mother's Milk. It wasn't until San Fran-based Faith No More, which had just hired Mike Patton from the experiment funk metal outfit Mr. Bungle, that the genre had its first taste of success.
Prone to wearing clown outfits and flopping around on the stage like a fish and writing songs from the point of view of dirty old men, newborn babies, and vampires, Patton was the perfect guy to bring the funk metal message to the masses — unlike Keidis, he had killer chops and rapped with ease. Not surprisingly, the band's "Epic" was a major MTV and radio hit.
After "Epic," the industry went looking for funk metallers, and they found them. Primus, Urban Dance Squad, Mordred, Scatterbrain, the Phunk Junkees, 24/7 Spyz, Follow for Now, Infectious Grooves, and a host of others were given strong pushes in the industry, but aside from Primus, none of them had any long-term success. The genre burned out quickly, and by the mid-'90s, funk metal was all but dead.
But something new — and horrible took its place — nü metal. Led by Limp Bizkit and Korn, the meathead dominated world of nü metal was as revolting as a sweaty jock strap. The days of Powell Peralta pranksterism and Town and Country tomfoolery was replaced by angst-ridden wanksters.
Which brings us to Phoenix, Ariz.'s Psychostick, a throwback to the early days of funk metal. Fresh on the heels of their latest release, Sandwich, Psychostick has a familiar sound — a little Primus here, a little Peppers there, a little Bizkit — coupled with an unabashedly juvenile sense of humor. Their are songs titled "Beer Is Good ... And Stuff," "Do You Want a Taco," and "Girl Directions," while the chorus to the title track has the following blessedly dumb lyrics, "This is not a song, it's a sandwich." Re-tard-ed.
Now, whether this is the dawn of a new beginning for funk metal or a retro-funeral dirge remains to be seen. But you can head to the Dive on Friday to judge for yourself.