SOUNDTRACK: LES CLAYPOOL-5 Gallons of Diesel (DVD) (2005).
I’ve loved Primus for years. And if you love Primus, chances are you love Les Claypool. And Les Claypool has created and released music with all manner of bands since Primus broke up (they have since gotten back together and have planned a new release for July). I don’t love all of his solo releases, but they all have something to commend them, and he’s made some great, unheralded music during those years.
This DVD covers the years from Sausage through to 2005. At first I was pretty excited by the DVD. The set opens with the off the wall video for Sausage’s “Riddles Are Abound Tonight” which is followed by a mercifully short “making of” video.
Then things started to go downhill somewhat. The rest of the DVD is live, which is fine (Les live is a thing of beauty). It’s just that for many of the videos the quality is terrible. The audio is also not ideal all the way through (that may have been my setup, but there were certainly songs that were much quieter than others). Now I accept that there weren’t professional film crews out for Les Claypool’s Holy Mackerel tour, and that these videos are basically bootleg, but it seems like they may have spruced them up a bit for the DVD.
Things change with the switch to Oysterhead. I could have watched several songs from Oysterhead and I wonder why they chose only one. This is a professional quality mix (although it is a little dark) and I have to say that the whole song is stolen by Trey Anastasio’s guitar thing. It’s a guitar (called the MatterHorn) but during the verses of the song it appears to be a kind of theremin on the reverse side (with a full-sized antler sticking out of the bottom) . He holds the thing upside down and waves at it to generate noise. It was bewitching.
But Trey wasn’t the only one with a weird instrument. For the Frog Brigade set(s) on one of the songs, Les plays a “bass” which is just one string (called the Whamola). He hits it with a stick and changes the notes with a movable handle that he raises and lowers. I’ve never seen anything like that, either. Most of the Frog Brigade set is outside at a festival. The lighting is good but the sound is awful. In one song, the poor guy on percussion is banging away at various things and you simply cannot hear them. Les also uses a secondary microphone (the Sandman–which has a great story behind it) but its volume is also quite low, which is a shame as you can’t hear him for quite a bit.
When Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains the setting is an odd one (they appear to be on a cruise(?)). It’s basically two lengthy jams, which is fine. Buckethead amazes with his skills. But the Bernie on keyboards, I can’t tell if he was screwing up or messing around during his solos.
There’s two more songs attributed to just Les Claypool, and this version of “Riddles Are Abound Tonight” is especially neat because there is a sitar playing the majority of the riff.
The DVD extras are fun. There’s a weird set from a band called 3 Guys Name Schmo which is 2 bassists and a drummer. The other bassist is miked very loud and it’s hard to hear Les (imagine outbassing Les Claypool!). Then there’s the second official video on the disc for “Buzzards of Green Hill” (very low budget). This comes with a making of the video video and a making of the audio video. Both are interesting and brief, giving tidbits of info without overwhelming us.
The final two items come from an actual TV show called Fly Fishing the World. I don’t fish, so I never knew this show existed. But sure enough, there’s our Les going to two separate locations and fishing on. The best part is that they play lots of Primus music between fishing (probably the most Primus music ever played on non-music TV), and they interview him as well (I didn’t know he had such cute kids). Despite my not knowing the show or caring about fishing, I found the whole program enjoyable and fascinating (and they catch and release as well). It’s well worth the time.
So overall, this is a mixed bag. There’s not a lot of video of Les’ non-Primus music out there, so in that respect this is great. I just wish the quality was better.
[READ: March 25, 2011] “Life in Three Houses”
This is an excerpt from Suicide. The introduction states that days after delivering the manuscript of Suicide, Levé killed himself. I suspect that that is the main reason that this story was published here.
It opens promisingly and very interestingly in the second person. The story tells us that you set off to play tennis with your wife, but you backtrack and go into the basement where you shoot yourself. Your wife finds you moments later but misses the clue you set out for her (that was handled very well).
The rest of the story (and there’s quite a lot) gets confusing. First off because it stays in the second person (even after death) but it also goes into apparent flashbacks. Even more confusing is the addition of an I as the narrator. An I who knows “you” but who was not present for the suicide so how could he have all these details?
The book is being published by Dalkey Archive Press. It’s possible that the excerpts do an injustice to the full book, but I fear that I will not be reading any more by this author.
It was translated by Jan Steyn.
For ease of searching I include: Leve
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