Here’s a hint for West Coaster’s: Check out the second-hand record shops in downtown Vancouver, BC. Six years ago, while visiting my then-boyfriend, I was astounded at the diverse selection, coming across gems that I hadn’t been able to find – or without having to pay import prices - in Toronto. After finding Weapon of Choice’s awesome Nut-Meg Sez “Bozo the Town” and a solo album by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, I inquired why the selection was so vastly superior than at any shop I had frequented in my hometown.
My then-boyfriend explained that, because of the weather, it’s pretty pleasant to live outside (if you have to) all year, coupled with serious drug issues, there is a plethora of drug-addled, homeless young people in the downtown core. At that time, it was a common occurrence for the youngsters to break into homes and steal CD collections, finding it quicker to pawn CD’s for drug money, rather than jewelery or equipment. Plus, a lot of Vancouverites traveled over the border to Portland and Seattle, avoiding import costs and gaining access to a more varied collection of music. So I guess it was their loss for my gain! Life’s a bitch, innit?
Weapon of Choice is a band that emerged in the same era of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone and other groups who were heavily influenced both by George Clinton’s P-Funk sound and California’s rock and thrash-metal scene. Founded in 1992, the genius behind the group, Lonnie Marshall a.k.a ‘Meganut,’ created a musical genre he describes as ”Nutmeg” – a mixture of classic rock, alternative, funk and jazz. Known for their raucous live act which includes horns and sexy backup singers and dancers, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard caught their show and quickly signed them to his label, Loosegroove and in 1994, Nut-Meg Sez “Bozo the Town was released.
Their first album tells the story of the origin of Nutmeg, a sic-fi being who escapes from the mental ward of a futuristic hospital space and descends to Earth, where he aims influence others with his ability to “live beyond and outside the boundaries of your south-central nervous system.” Primarily filled with raw, jazzy funk tunes heavily laced with hard rock guitar riffs is accentuated with some serious lyrics, masked with a heavy dose of sarcastic humor.
On “Slave Driver”, the lyrics, discuss rampant materialism (“Slave Driver, might was well be a gold digger too”). “Uppity Uppity Do-Little” tells the story of a black dude who chooses to deny his ethnicity and culture. Many people will probably remember “Nutty Nutmeg Phantasy” as singer Macy Gray covered it on 2001’s The ID, but the best, and most eye-opening track is “Mark of the Feast”, which criticizes the American Thanksgiving holiday, and it might be the heaviest – both musically and lyrically – track off the album.
Despite numerous line up changes, the shutting down of the Loosegroove label and the frustration of trying to replace it (they eventually released 2002’s Illoominutty on Fishbone’s label, Nuttsactor 5), Weapon of Choice is still going strong. Their following album, 1996’s Highperspice is regarded as their most successful album, yet they have had no singles that have made it on the Billboard chart. A fun fact: Marshall’s younger brother, Arik, was once in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, replacing guitarist John Frusciante in 1992 for their Lollapalooza tour.
The career of Los Angeles-based Weapon of Choice is one of those stories that make you wonder why radio and music video stations are saturated with one-hit wonders, whose physical beauty is favored over talent. If you like Fishbone and Parliament, I would heavily suggest you pick up Nut-Meg Sez “Bozo the Town,” but also check out the most excellent documentary, Electric Purgatory: the Fate of the Black Rocker, where there is an interview and concert footage of Weapon of Choice at their best.