Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dope Dogs

Once George Clinton's fecundity was nothing short of miraculous. It took just 12 years from the launch of the Mothership to get to 1982's Computer Games, which stands as the very best of the dozens of excellent and not-so-excellent LPs churned out by P-Funk and its innumerable offshoots up till then. Over the next 16 years, however, Clinton produced only seven new studio albums. And while none of these was as tuckered out as, say, 1980's Trombipulation, the sole miracle on display was how effortlessly their hard raps and boudoir grooves kept up with the changing same he'd done so much to inspire.

Dope Dogs wants more than that, and it gets it. Incredibly, the 58-year-old Atomic Dog has decided that 1998 is the time for a concept album--about dogs. The signature tune, which spins a fantastic theory about the substance dependence imposed on Coast Guard-indentured, contraband-sniffing canines, gets Clinton going. And in the end, only one of the 14 songs stays away from retrievers named Fifi and poodles named Pepe, Dog Stars and Pavlovian dogs, wild dogs and wag-the-dog tales, bitches and sons of bitches galore. This revived cartoon glee imparts a wickedly ironic edge to the theme beneath the concept, Clinton's long-running obsession with U.S. drug laws.

Musically, Dope Dogs, which has already appeared in less fully formed European and Japanese versions, won't rerevolutionize the funk. But for damn sure it stays on the one, deploying every P-Funk device from Hendrixian guitar to Brownian horn motion and also adding a few more, including chicken-scratch banjo and a fast-prattling rapper who sounds about six. Expatiating or just ruminating, Clinton sounds his age--the man's blown a lot of smoke, and his larynx knows it. But he still knows some new tricks.

Rolling Stone, Nov. 12, 1998