The release of Whatitdo.’s first album “Shit’s Dope” opens a new chapter in Reno’s long lineage of funk music. Filling the void left by the elusive Keyser Soze and the ever-touring Jelly Bread, these funk/soul purists can still be seen every Wednesday night at Reno’s The Loving Cup jamming and bobbing their heads alongside the local powerhouses that make this scene so incredible. With this amazingly self-recorded effort, Whatitdo. has thrown out the rule book by combining the southern proto-funk styles of The Meters and Booker T. with fusion-esque chops reminiscent of Weather Report and the immediately familiar tones of the genre’s pioneers.
Upon listening to this album it is abundantly clear that this is not the work of stuffy perfectionists searching for hours to get the right snare tone; this is the work of a group that understands the importance of a recording’s intangibles. By opting to record the album on their own, they were able to beautifully strip down the process and leave only the imperfect essence of the songs that they have been jamming on for years. While this album clearly showcases the songwriting ability and chops of Whatitdo., the obvious star of the show is the gritty, relentless funk itself.
Mark Sexton’s guitar kicks off the first track “Word Is Bond” and sets the tone for what’s to come. Throughout the entire album, Sexton displays his chameleonic guitar playing by moving effortlessly from pocket-burrowing riffs to distorted guitar heroics and everywhere inbetween. On “Fancy Hands” the band begins with a Steely Dan flavor before letting Sexton serenade the listener with cavity-inducing licks in the style of Eric Krasno or Jon Herington. But just one track later he tears through “Machete Man” with the post-Hendrixian chops of funk forefathers Eddie Hazel and Catfish Collins. With the help of keyboardist Ryan Taylor, Sexton supplies the color and nuance to the malleable yet driving foundation laid down by bassist Alex Korostinsky and drummer Aaron Chiazza.
On the track “Whatitdo/Dope” the group shows yet another side to their funky identity. With the Archie Bell & The Drells style chord progression as the backbone, Chiazza moves into an energetic, skittish fatback beat. Taylor’s doubled keyboard parts introduce a new sonic element that sound something like Jan Hammer playing the Chitlin Circuit.
The members of Whatitdo. make it clear with “Shit’s Dope” that even as they adjust their tones and styles throughout, the underlying homage to the genre’s past, present and future is their No. 1 priority. Just like the group itself, this album manages to surprise and excite while staying true to its firm funk roots.