MIND FUNK – Mind Funk

Mind Funk were initially a supergroup, of sorts. Except none of the band members were particularly famous. Vocalist Pat Dubar had previously been a member of Uniform Choice; Reed St Mark had drummed with Celtic Frost; Louis Svitek and John Monte had both previously been with thrash/punk outfit M.O.D. and Jason Coppola had previously worked with Chemical Waste.

The music on ‘Mind Funk’ doesn’t really fit in with the musicians’ previous careers. It’s largely made up of punchy hard rock with occasional funk metal influences. The album was released with a lot of hype: the band graced the pages of all the metal magazines and even gave an interview on British television (as part of the classic Raw Power programme). However, none of the press hype translated into album sales.

John Monte’s bass playing is the main driving force behind Mind Funk. His style is energetic and often takes the lead, but never at the expense of what are generally melodic metal songs. For ‘Big House Burning’, Mind Funk demonstrate what they’re best at, as Monte’s funky bass collides with a relentless guitar riff, with a slightly old school style edge. The sheer energy here should have made this track an MTV rock favourite.‘Ride & Drive’ (incidentally the first Mind Funk track I heard, as it was featured on a free cassette with Metal Hammer in May 1991), sounds like a cross between a sleazy 80s band and something a bit funky, though never in a Chili Peppers sense.  Dubar’s vocal isn’t great and musically it feels a little muddled with the only redeeming feature is a scorching guitar solo.

‘Sweet Sister Blue’ provides the album with something gentler. It’s essentially acoustic based rock, but with a quirky time signature.  Although Mind Funk have moments where they sound great playing their hybrid of metal, funk and 80s style hard rock, here they sound far more at ease.  Pat Dubar is in fine voice – occasionally reminiscent of Mike Patton – and the fusion of acoustic and electric guitars provide an excellent backdrop.  The bluesy electric guitar leads are great, but it’s the Spanish guitar solo which provides the real element of surprise and shows imagination.

The rest of the album has its moments: ‘Sugar Ain’t So Sweet’ packs a hard punch with Reed St Mark’s drumming driving the band forward; ‘Blood Runs Red’ and ‘Touch You’ turn up the funky elements and although Monte’s bass is still upfront, ‘Innocent’ has a no-nonsense hard rock approach.  In fact, the only time the album really misfires is on the slower, slightly dirgy ‘Fire’, where the band sound fine but there’s no real energy.

Following the release of the album, Mind Funk were dropped by Epic Records.Reed St Mark and Jason Coppola left the band.Ex-Nirvana and Soundgarden man Jason Everman became their full-time guitarist.They released a second album (‘Dropped’) which eschewed the main elements which made the debut enjoyable and, as such, was little more than a grungy piece of boredom.  A third release, ‘The People Who Fell From The Sky’, was different again: With only Dubar and Svitek remaining from the original line-up (Everman too had since upped and gone), they became a Kyuss style stoner rock band. While more enjoyable than ‘Dropped’, the album had little in common with the original Mind Funk.  After their split, Pat Dubar became a core member of Corporate Avenger and Louis Svitek worked on and off as Minstry’s live guitarist (as he had previously, between Mind Funk projects).

Since Mind Funk’s first album had received such great press, I’m still not sure why their future wasn’t wide open.  Their relative failure was possibly due to their brand of funk-tinged hard rock coming along a little too late, hence their desperately changing styles to fit in with more popular sub-genres over their next two releases.  It doesn’t really matter though: just listen to ‘Big House Burning’ and take yourselves back in time.

[Mind Funk’s debut album was reissued in January 2010 by Cherry Red Records with three bonus tracks.]

February 2010


Ringo Starr needs no introduction. He’s one of the most famous rock drummers on the planet, if not the most famous. Many of his post-Beatles solo records have been criminally overlooked. This offering from 2010 is surprisingly good – almost as good as 2008’s ‘Liverpool 8’ – and it’s another disc featuring a roll-call of famous chums.

The album begins with a bluesy rocker, ‘Fill In The Blanks’, driven by guitar work courtesy of the Eagles’ Joe Walsh. Nostalgia is often a strong feature of Starr’s solo work and it’s a recurring theme throughout this album. ‘Peace Dream’ is a gentle tale of hippie ideals. It also recalls Ringo’s association with Lennon and John and Yoko’s Bed For Peace stunt.So much time can pass, but it seems that once you’ve been a Beatle, you’ll always be a Beatle. ‘The Other Side of Liverpool’ (co-written by Dave Stewart) concerns Ringo’s childhood, his father leaving and his formative years in the north of England.Like the title track of ‘Liverpool 8’ before it, this gives another simply written insight into Ringo’s life and has plenty of charm.

The bluesy ‘Can’t Do It Wrong’ (co-written with long-time collaborator Gary Burr) suits Ringo’s style perfectly and features some decent slide guitar and an appearance from Edgar Winter on saxophone.‘Everybody Wins’ is a definite stand out.A re-recording of an old b-side, this new arrangement makes good use of organ played by Benmont Tench.‘Time’ features some smart bass playing and fiddle – these flourishes make a striking change from the simplicity of Starr’s usual approach.

The title cut is quirky and initial listens may make the listener wonder what Ringo was thinking. The drum sounds and female backing vocals on this make it sound like a cast off from 1992. Repeated listens allow its better qualities to shine through: it features tabla and Asian vocals (an Asian slant is always fine on a Beatle-related release – I’m sure George would’ve approved) and another welcome upping in tempo. The soulful ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ features all of Ringo’s All-Starr Band in top form.Guesting on lead vocals, Joss Stone does a top job…so much so, in fact that when Ringo’s vocal’s creep in (limited mostly to asking ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’) they sound funny – both in the peculiar and the ha-ha sense. It’s probable  that Mr Starkey is expecting us to treat this as good-natured fun.

‘Walk With You’, the album’s lead single is, rather surprisingly, the album’s dullest track. It reaches little more than a plod and lyrically it’s a little trite (not an especially good effort from the oft-praised Van Dyke Parks, who gets a co-write here). You’d hope that Paul McCartney’s presence on bass and vocals would lift it little, but even Macca sounds slightly uncomfortable, his vocal in a key which is slightly too high. Other reviews of this album have suggested this track is the best thing on ‘Y Not’; it isn’t.  Perhaps since this represents the first time Paul and Ringo have harmonized in such a way, those who think it’s the best track only think so because, in their hearts, they desperately wanted it to be so.

Granted, Ringo is not the greatest vocalist or songwriter and a couple of the songs here can feel a little one-paced, but he has enough optimism to make this a wholly charming and truly worthwhile experience.  Overall, ‘Y Not’ is a worthy follow-up to the really solid ‘Liverpool 8’.

February 2010

30 SECONDS TO MARS – This Is War

I heard the second album by these guys back when it came out; despite lots of decent press, it didn’t impress me.  Their sound was solid enough, but none of the songs made any lasting impression.  I was told to forget about that, since this third outing for Jared Leto’s band was a vast improvement.

It’s a little worrying that this is supposed to be better. To be truthful, it’s so formulaic that it hurts.  30 Seconds to Mars are more than musically accomplished, this is true, but ‘This Is War’ offers very little in the way of variety, with one song blending into the next, almost indistinguishable from each other.

The album features 12 songs (okay, 11 songs and an intro) which, at best, are pleasant, but nothing more.  At worst, this album is the musical equivalent of queuing at the post office – nothing much exciting happens and by the end, you feel like it’s gone on forever.

Most of the songs follow a set pattern: quiet-ish verse building to louder chorus, where Leto changes his vocal pitch (or listening to this, a studio engineer helps change his pitch).  If you weren’t sure whether the band were trying to make their formulaic, safe, emo-influenced tunes sound like anthems, they force the issue by adding backing vocals of live audiences going ‘whoah’ on nearly every track.  ‘Hurricane’ is slightly different, in that they inflict their irritating qualities over the duration of six minutes instead of four – and yes, they use the crowd noise yet again.  There’s not even enough variety overall to warrant Real Gone’s usual detailed approach of breaking each track down to expose particular musical highlights.

The single ‘Kings & Queens’ is fine for what it does.  It’s certainly the best thing on the album, but that’s not saying much.

I wish 30 Seconds To Mars all the best, but ‘This Is War’ leaves me cold.  Sorry.  Go and buy an Angels & Airwaves album instead.

January 2010

ARENA – Songs From The Lions Cage

This debut album by Arena feels like an important progressive rock release. Arena’s keyboard player Clive Nolan is probably best known as being a longtime member of Pendragon and the drummer, Mick Pointer was part of the original Marillion line-up.

The lengthy album opener, ‘Out of the Wilderness’ is a good indication of Arena’s musical ability. At over ten minutes, ‘Valley of the Kings’ follows a similar neo-progressive musical path and has a mid-section which sounds like Marillion’s ‘Forgotten Sons’. As a consequence, vocalist John Carson tries his best to sound like Fish. Sadly, this is the album’s main deficiency: Mick Pointer seems intent on capturing his former glories and as a result, all of the best bits sound like they’ve been all but plagiarized from ‘Script For A Jester’s Tear’.

The conceptual ‘Crying For Help’ could’ve provided the band with an interesting centrepiece. Unfortunately, it’s nearly all instrumental keyboard work and when added together, its four parts total nearly fifteen minutes and very little of it holds the attention. The only part of ‘Crying For Help’ which shows any real promise is the final part which features a guest solo from Marillion’s Steve Rothery. But, again, on the down side, the track closes with a ringing telephone and a message saying “…this is the problem line.” Sound familiar?

On the whole, ‘Songs From The Lions Cage’ lacks originality and is only worth a listen if you’re a diehard Marillion fan. Otherwise…

Originally written for Fastlane magazine, 1994