Ooh La La

Miss Fairchild sexes up New England a second time
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  August 22, 2007

Ooh La La Sha Sha | Released by Miss Fairchild | at SPACE, in Portland | with the Model Airplane | August 24
You know that scene in The Blues Brothers where Jake and Elwood are buying instruments for the band and find themselves organ shopping with Ray Charles? Five minutes later, 500 Chicagoans are filling the streets, busting a move to “Shake a Tail Feather.” I sometimes think that if The Blues Brothers had been set in Portland, Ray Charles would have inspired 500 Portlanders to wander out into the streets and nod their heads a little bit.

Which is a little unfair. Mainers can get down. They just need to the proper stimulation. Three years ago, a young lovely named Miss Fairchild (well, okay, a few musically inclined and technologically savvy guys with a soft spot for Bell Biv DeVoe named Miss Fairchild) stimulated the Hell out of this town, playing Pied Piper to the hilt with an infectious brand of rhythm and a hip flautist to boot. Or, as Schuyler “Great” Dunlap calls himself on their new album Ooh La La Sha Sha, at the beginning of “New Thang:” a flutician.

That flute, so rarely heard outside of an orchestral setting yet played by so many fifth-grade girls around the country, is central to the method of Miss Fairchild’s success. Were the band simply reveling in and revisiting the sounds of Motown, early boy-band, the P-Funk All-Stars, and Run-DMC, they wouldn’t amount to much more than a Motor Booty Affair-like novelty band — fun in the club, but something you might wake up the next morning regretting. Instead, with Samuel P. Nice (a/k/a Sammy Bananas, of the mixtape and mash-up-making Certified Bananas) manning the production, Dunlap playing a handful of instruments, and friends and family delivering live drums and a horn section, the band provide a richly textured sound that borrows from just about all of the above, but never quite gets larcenous.

At the 1:20 mark of “Cheatin’ Man,” a classic upbeat R&B celebration of the playa, lead vocalist Daddy Wrall (the former Wrall Skillz), demands the band “break it down.” What follows? A ripping flute solo, of course. Has that juxtaposition ever appeared in popular music? Possibly, but it’s never been so funky. The six-minute-plus “Trust Game,” a three-part examination of a fraying relationship that leads with Big Pun-style menacing bass and segues into free jazz horns, finishes with a guitar solo dripping with distortion. You’ll even hear Sufjan-esque strings and horn arrangements from time to time, likely followed by a Del tha Funkee Homosapien-type rap.

Best of all, these guys are having a blast and if you can’t get down with it, you’ve probably got some issues. The height of their ridiculousness, the proof of their shamelessness (both meant as compliments), can be found in “Tic Toc,” an ode to everything that built up to George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” and everything that came after. The repeated finish demands that you “Get on your feet and dance/Pick yourself up by the seat of your pants/Because it’s funk time.” Later, we learn that it’s “funk o’clock.” On the printed page, I could see how that might read as utter crap. Take my word for it, you won’t care at all about its vapidity.

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