Gloryhallastoopid, which concludes the Parliament mythos, imparts the same bittersweet feeling as when anything wraps up and acquires a body count in the process.
The Spectrum Culture P-Funk retrospective happens to arrive at Gloryhallastoopid (Or Pin the Tail on the Funky) at a time when conclusions are a big part of the cultural discourse: “Game of Thrones” sprinting through miles of plot in mere hours, Marvel grandly dispatching its Avengers to their destinies. And Gloryhallastoopid, which concludes the Parliament mythos, imparts the same bittersweet feeling as when anything wraps up and acquires a body count in the process.
This is where the Sir Nose saga ends. In the last minutes of “Theme from the Black Hole,” the long-nosed enemy of all that is funky (if you fake the funk, see, your nose will grow) finally vanquishes his enemy, the George Clinton avatar Starchild, by turning him into a mule. The logic can be explained by another of Clinton’s elaborate jokes, and it’s to his credit that the record suffers from no shortage of donkey jokes without giving us a single “ass” double-entendre. The P-Funk mythology is more convoluted and makes less sense than fans like to pretend, but what little story exists concludes rather hastily. Starchild should’ve been sent off in grander fashion, especially when Clinton teases his demise as early as the second track.
Maybe Clinton fell into that old franchise trap of trying to kill his characters on deadline. Starchild isn’t the only loss the P-Funk stable suffered in the late ‘70s; thanks to Clinton’s gross mismanagement of the band’s finances, members of Parliament had been steadily trickling out since the 1977 masterpiece Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome. The band’s talent coffers were severely depleted by Gloryhallastoopid, though the members who remained are indispensable (Bernie Worrell has rarely sounded better). Clinton must’ve had a suspicion Parliament wouldn’t exist much longer, and indeed Gloryhallastoopid was followed only by 1980’s unloved Trombipulation and last year’s Medicaid Fraud Dogg.
Clinton sounds more harried than usual. He screams “Where are the party people?!?” as if he’s genuinely worried, and during his opening monologue he sounds like someone’s got their hands around his throat. Gloryhallastoopid seems perched at an unbendable extreme. While Motor-Booty Affair took place in Atlantis, this album takes place in the “black hole.” Go any further out and you’d have to go interdimensional.
And the music is willing to get frustrating. The two 10-minute tracks are widely disliked, though they’re some of the most interesting Parliament experiments. “Party People” could do with a few fewer repetitions of “turn us all loose,” but Bernie Worrell’s sunsplashes of organ are delightful, and Clinton’s disturbingly babyish repetitions of the word “boogie” suggests “party people” should be thought of more like “mole people” or something equally unsavory. “The Freeze (Sizzaleenmean)” reflects its curious, onomatopoeic title by sizzling rather than bursting into flames. Its slow-burning thaw feels almost like a gag. They are getting your temperatures to rise very, very slowly.
Gloryhallastoopid is the last great Parliament album, but it’s the first one whose greatness is disputable. Its charm doesn’t come on as easily as others, its paranoia is less preferable to its predecessors’ weird wit and giddy invention, and that it’s the beginning of the end is a nagging fact. But it doesn’t have a bad track, “The Big Bang Theory” is a sublime instrumental, and even a depleted Parliament is still a deeply funky entity. The sour taste is less because of what happens during Gloryhallastoopid than because of what happened, or didn’t happen, after it.