Music News

Phunk Junkeez

The Phunk Junkeez and Illegal Substance mine the same material. The latter's a group of Phoenix youngsters whose self-titled debut leads with the track "Let's Get Fucked Up." The Phunk Junkeez, meanwhile, have been tearing up stages since the Illegal Substance crew was still in grade school. But the sentiment is nearly the same, evidenced by this line early on in their newest album, Rock It Science: "Fight for the right/Free speech on the mike/Oh yeah motherfucker/That's the shit I like."

Yes, this is dumb shit. It's also fun shit, at times goofy and at times inspired in a toilet-humor way.

The Junkeez have been pulling this disposable-income smile-fest stuff for years. The new record finds the band engaging in its by-now-patented brand of party flavor, which mixes a little reggae, a little adult pop and a little trip-hop with a whole lot of punk riffage and old-school monosyllabic rapping. "Everyday," the album's first single, is especially impressive. "I'm just happy to be rapping and staying alive," raps front man Soulman over a sunny, island-beat hook and weirdly pretty harmonies. The band feeds off that brand of sentiment throughout, the energy of which threatens to leak from the stereo. The Junkeez like it loud and borderline insane. And Soulman is intent on letting you know he's a crazy motherfucker. "I'm feeling trapped in this mental monkey jar," he tells you on "People Following Me." We'll just say that's a good thing.

Illegal Substance, while it's a clear disciple of ground-floor rap-rock acts like Phunk Junkeez, keeps its shtick as chill as possible, veering toward disco and faux Dust Brothers minimalism. If the Junkeez derive their humor from crude antsiness, Illegal veers more toward Muppets on acid. Illegal Substance is truly absurd by comparison. "Disco Beaver," despite the groaner of a title, is actually an album highlight. Stealing a guitar lick from Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" and stirring up a funk bass line, MCs P-Nut and Adverb trade cartoonish sex raps. Example: "Screaming so loud/Neighbors call the cops/Show up at the door/To give me props." The baby band is also smart enough to align itself with renowned dance-rock producer Danny Saber (Black Grape, Rolling Stones) on three tracks, one of which, "We Roll," sounds like it leaped from a printing of Top Gun, all echoing Moroder-style keys. Saber and fellow producer Nynex give Illegal a cheap basement production that lends their suburban word play a certain charm.

Phunk Junkeez and Illegal Substance won't be winning Grammys anytime soon; nor will they be chillin' with any eggheaded graduate students. Credit them for knowing that ain't the point. To quote Soulman, "Say Oh my God, that's some funky shit'/Spark up a joint and let's all get lit."

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Christopher O'Connor