Ever since their first singles in 2009, Fergus & Geronimo have been a scattershot affair. One minute they were offering a pitch-perfect, soulful love song; the next they’d deliver a jokey number with a prominent recorder solo. But Funky Was the State of Affairs changes things — it’s a statement. The duo are still tourists in different musical styles (post-punk, punk, Krautrock, astral jazz, funk), but their travels are in service to an album with direction, unifying themes and its own universe.
Paranoia and the idea of “being watched” are pervasive. There’s an early monologue and a spoken-word track about phone tapping and a handclapping R&B track called “Spies” (who, the chorus informs us, are outside in a van). Those conspiracy theories are paired with catchy melodies. “Drones” features an earworm guitar hook and a near-motorik beat, and “No Parties” has a fairly buoyant synth for its Orwellian lyrics. Regardless of the genre the duo invoke from moment to moment, “funky” is an apt descriptor; Fergus & Geronimo are covering the same manifesto-laden, sci-fi, interplanetary, “the man is watching” territory funk music covered around four decades ago. And as a bonus, the album’s funkiest two songs, “Off the Map” (about going off the grid to avoid Big Brother) and the album’s mostly instrumental title track, legitimately compete on the same level as early Funkadelic.