City Slang: Ten Detroit albums best heard high
We do have the Chronicle issue out this week, after all.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that music and marijuana have been inextricably linked since, well, music and marijuana. From the jazz haunts and bordellos of early 1900’s New Orleans, through the Grateful Dead and its legions of ‘Dead-Heads’, and Cypress Hill’s complete reliance for artistic inspiration, right up to the present day, masses of musicians have not been shy to serve as unofficial advocates for the “demon weed.”
It’s not always deliberate; oftentimes, music will serve as the perfect accompaniment to a smoke-session, whether intentional or not. Pink Floyd didn’t suggest that the Dark Side of the Moon album synched up with the Wizard of Oz. That was an under-stimulated stoner with an overactive imagination. Sometimes, records just work that way. Here are ten albums by Detroit artists that offer the muffled mind an ideal soundtrack.
Yusef Lateef Eastern Sounds
Lateef is obviously a brilliant man. He is said to have influenced John Coltrane, and one would have to imagine that Coltrane picked his influences carefully. What we have here is Lateef experimenting with Indian music and performing themes from Spartacus on the xun, or Chinese Globular flute. It sounds like something you might listen to if you had just learned that the Beatles went to India and got high, and you wanted a similar pseudo-spiritual experience.
The Amboy Dukes Journey to the Center of the Mind
We had to include this, just because it’s really comical that guitarist Ted Nugent still denies that he was aware the title track had anything to do with drugs. Yeah, whatever you say Ted. The cover art is plastered with smoking equipment. Either way, this is a great stoner record, with the Dukes going in a psychedelia direction following the ‘garage rock’ of the debut.
The Stooges Funhouse
The sludgy feel of Funhouse is commonplace now on stoner rock albums by bands like Clutch and Monster Magnet, but back in `70 it was something unusual and, to many, uncomfortable. Iggy was singing about sticking it “deep inside” and having a “TV eye on you,” resulting in a record that was both chilled and sexy. Only a year or so earlier, the band had been performing with vacuum cleaners at house parties. With Funhouse, they were looking to corrupt the nation.
Destroy All Monsters 1974-1976
Recorded during the period in the art-rock band’s history before Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and MC5 bassist Mike Davis joined, this is a triple album that many a dad would refer to as “just noise.” That’s incorrect, but it’s certainly a challenging listen that requires no small amount of patience. Sit in a room with a buddy and a baked brain, however, and all sorts of little hidden surprises will reveal themselves. It’s the musical equivalent of one of those 3D magic-eye paintings.
Funkadelic Maggot Brain
Let’s be honest – it would be ludicrous if there wasn’t a George Clinton album in this list. Maggot Brain, the third Funkadelic album, is a tremendous piece of work, one of the best albums of the 1970’s. It’s also a stoner fave. “Can You Get to That” is a reworking of a Parliaments song called “What You Been Growin’,” which pretty much says it all. Then there’s “Super Stupid,” which tells the tale of a hapless fool who buys the wrong drug by mistake. Doh!
Was (Not Was) Born to Laugh at Tornados
Take a look at the list of personnel on this ’83 gem, and it seems that somebody behind the scenes was hashed up. You have Ozzy Osbourne, Mitch Ryder, Wayne Kramer, Vinnie Vincent (of Kiss and the Vinnie Vincent Invasion), Sweet Pea Atkinson, John Sinclair, Marshall Crenshaw, Doug Fieger, Luis Resto and many more, all in a whirlwind of pop-psych-funk. The record swings from cocktail jazz to metal in the slow blink of a gazing eye.
Slum Village Fan-Tas-Tic Vol.1
Back in 1996 and `97 when this album was recorded (although it wasn’t officially released until 2005), Slum Village was constantly being compared to A Tribe Called Quest, though the Detroit boys were not nearly as peace-loving as Q-Tip’s crew. What J Dilla, T3 and Baatin were, however, is razor-sharp and super-funny. Once fried, “Hoc N Pucky” will likely have you laughing out of every hole.
Formed by techno pioneers Juan Atkins and Richard “3070” Davis, and influenced by George Clinton, Kraftwerk, Japanese band the Yellow Magic Orchestra, and British electro-pop, Cybotron’s first single was “Alleys of Your Mind,” which was fitting. The music was all a little cheesy, especially when viewed through nostalgia lenses, but it was wonderfully weird in that dated-futuristic way. When wasted, you’ll swear Enter is a classic.
Madonna Like a Prayer
It’s all about that title track. Vegetate with friends and throw this album in, “just for a giggle,” and you might very well see God. If nothing else, you’ll remember that video with our Madge getting all frisky in church. Before you know it, you’ll be singing “Cherish,” “Express Yourself,” and “Dear Jessie” at the top of your crust-covered lungs. You’ll know that you’re listening to something very, very deep, even if nobody else does.
Human Eye They Came from the Sky
If there’s one modern-era Detroit band that defines avant-garde, it’s Timmy Vulgar’s Human Eye. They Came from the Sky is the third album from this project, and it’s arguably the best. It’s certainly the weirdest, and that’s saying something. The record deals with the issues faced when humans and aliens attempt to develop relationships, and the songs have titles like “Impregnate the Martian Queen Pt.2,” and “Junkyard Heart.” Create your own movie around the music.