Archive for January, 2015

SOUNDTRACK: LES CLAYPOOL-Of Fungi and Foe (2009).

fungiAfter doing the various solo records, Les spent some time making the Elecjan5tric Apricot movie and soundtrack (which I don’t know).  Then he was asked to score music for a video game and a movie.  He did so and then used these templates for the completion of this solo album.  As he explains:

I was commissioned to write soundtrack music for two projects that promised to have quite a bit of very intense and unique imagery. One was for an interactive game about a meteor that hits Earth and brings intelligence to the mushrooms within the crash proximity and the other was about a three thousand pound wild boar that terrorizes the marijuana fields of Northern California. Obviously the makers of the subsequent Mushroom Men game and Pig Hunt film were very aware of my tastes and perspectives because the music oozed from me in such a natural way that I believe it came as much from my pores as it did my mind. This music became the foundation of the songs that fill this collection. With a few added tidbits and a bit of gypsy sauce, I inflict upon you… OF FUNGI AND FOE

As such the album is thematic and consistent. But the musical theme is very dark and very bass heavy (which makes sense given that it is Les).  But it’s quite claustrophobic and hard to listen to all the way through. Some of the later songs are probably pretty good but it’s hard to get to them.

I talked about the album in 2010, and said:

The disc is very percussion heavy, with lots of rather long songs.  And although I love long songs, I love long songs that aren’t the same thing for 6 or so minutes.  I also rather miss Claypool’s voice.  He doesn’t sing a lot of these songs in his typical falsetto.  There’s a lot of very deep voiced, rather processed sounding voices here (it works great on the muh muh muh mushroom men, but not so great elsewhere).  Because when you combine that with the bass and percussion, it’ really hard to hear what he’s on about (and Claypool lyrics are half the fun).

Plus, we know that with Primus’ own brand of weirdness, a little goes a long way.  So, hearing the same bizarro riff for 4 minutes can be trying.

The first 4 tracks are all really solid.  But that 5th track, “What would George Martin Do?” just sucks all the life out of the disc.  The same goofy riff for 6 minutes with completely unintelligible lyrics.  Ouch.   But “You Can’t Tell Errol Anything” picks up the pace somewhat with a wonderful Tom Waits-ian soundtrack.  The addition of Eugene Hutz on insane wailing vocals brings a wonderful new level of dementia to the disc.

Listening again, with context from recent albums I had a similar but more forgiven attitude.  I find the opening song “Mushroom Men” to be fantastic.  It is wonderfully weird—with great use of the whamola to create very strange theme.  It’s one of his best songs.  There is something fun in “Amanitas.”   I love the riff and sentiment of “Red State Girl.”  “Boonville Stomp” is indeed a stomp, although I find it a bit tedious.

Interestingly, I now love “What Would Sir George Martin Do” for the carnivalesque feel to it. But I agree with my old self in that it’s a goofy lark of a song and should be 2 minutes not 6. The disc ender, “Ol’ Roscoe” is a really sad drinking and driving song–one which I don’t like to listen to.

So, it’s a mixed bag of songs, but would be curious to see how they work in the video game and movie (although I don’t think I’ll ever watch the movie).  Huh, turns out you can listen to a number of these songs on YouTube.  Of course I wonder how they were uploaded and how I can get a copy–the instrumentals are really cool.

[READ: January 24, 2014] “Leviathan”

Sedaris begins by explaining how as people get older they become crazy in one of two ways.  Either animal crazy (as in dog crazy: when asked if they have children they are likely to answer :”a black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe…. Then they add–they always add–‘they were rescues.'”

The second way is with their diets.  His brother Paul has all but given up solid food (at 46 he eats much they way he did at 9 months old).

He also teases the people who eat things that supposedly stave off disease which the drug companies don’t want you knowing about.  Hi sister says “Cancer can definitely be cured with a vegan diet…”  His sensible response?  “If a vegan diet truly did cure cancer, don’t you think it would have at least made the front age of the New York Times Science section.”  He says that Paul has been eating apricot seeds for some time (although any more than four can be dangerous since they contain cyanide). (more…)


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jan5SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS–They Can’t All Be Zingers (2006).

zingersIt’s funny to think of Primus having a greatest hits album, although they did in fact have some hits.

I always think it’s interesting to see what albums are most represented on Greatest Hits collections–did a band become popular later in their career or did their success fade after a time?  In this case, the early stuff is very well represented.

There’s nothing from Suck on This, which isn’t too surprising since pretty much everything has been re-recorded, but you get three tracks from Frizzle Fry (a great album that I would think would be hard to choose three songs from), three from Sailing the Seas of Cheese and three from Pork Soda.  You even get three from Tales from the Punchbowl (I wouldn’t have thought “Electric Grapevine” would make it).

As the end of the first part of their career came into view, we get only two songs from The Brown Album.  There’s only one song from the hated (by Les) Antipop and I feel like a conciliatory nod to the reunion EP with “Mary the Ice Cube.”  I would have rather them put “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the disc as their cover of that song is only available as a video on any official release.

Perhaps the most fun thing about this release is the packaging, which, yes, looks like processed cheese.

[READ: January 23, 2015] “The Ways”

This was a strange story to me.  It is about three older teens who appear to be living on their own in what I gather is rural Ireland.  The oldest brother (Nick) is out of school and is currently working, the two younger siblings are still in school, although the youngest brother (Gerry) is always getting in trouble and the sister (Pell) basically just stopped going to school once their father died.

As the story opens, Pell gets a call that Gerry has been fighting and has been suspended.  She hitchhikes and then takes the bus into the city (which is a dozen or so miles away) to pick him up.  On the bus some of Gerry’s friends recognize her and give a her a bit of hard time, but she gives back just enough–asking why those guys are not in class–they say they were off messing about for the morning.  It’s clear that Pell takes no guff.

The next section shifts to Nick while he’s on a cigarette break at work.  There’ a funny bit about his coworker, a Chinaman named Sean.  When Pell and Gerry show up at the restaurant, he gives them so free food and tells them to hold on.  He tells Pell that the next time, the school should call him at work.  When Pell says she tried to call him when the school called their house, but that he didn’t answer, he says that he won’t answer when they call him either, but at least Pell won’t have to deal with it. (more…)

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 dec22 SOUNDTRACK: LES CLAYPOOL-Of Whales and Woe (2006).

whaleswoe Although Les Claypool had been making all manner of jam band based “solo” records, he finally got around to releasing another one under just his name.  Although interestingly, Frog Brigade members Skerik on sax, Mike Dillon on vibes and marimba and Gabby La la all appear on this disc as well.   But this is the Les show, from start to finish.

I had reviewed this disc a few years ago.  Some things I said then:

On the first few listens, when I wasn’t listening very carefully, I really enjoyed the disc.  It reminded me a lot of Primus, although it had a lot of Les’ solo quirks.  However, once I started scrutinizing it a bit more, I found I didn’t enjoy it as much.

Most of the songs are stories about various bizarro characters.  And although I love Les’ characters, this turns into one of the downfalls of the disc.  In the great tradition of storytelling songs, the songs tend to be verses only with nary a chorus.  And that’s fine because most storytellers use the music as a background to accompany the story.  Les’ music is far too aggressive/innovative/interesting to be  background.  So when you get a great wild bass line, you’re attracted to it.  But when it lasts for 5 minutes with no changes, it’s exhausting.  And trying to listen to lyrics along with it is, well, I think your brain just shuts down (especially when they are recorded low in the mix and are hard to hear).  And so, the album feels a lot longer than it is.

“Back Off Turkey” is wild and crazy sounding music but the vocals are so muddy it’s impossible to tell what’s up with the song.  It feels more like randomness than an actual song.  “One Better” is an amazing track, highlighting just how great Claypool is as a songwriter and arranger.  This song lasts pretty long but because there’s a lot of different things going on, it never overstays its welcome.  The vibes are great once again and this has a great sax solo.  “Lust Stings” sounds a lot like Tom Waits.  Musically it is interesting but lyrically not so much.

“Of Whales and Woe” has a great bass line and I love the theremin solo (from Gabby La La). Gabby also plays sitar on “Vernon the Company Man.”  The sitar is a great change of pace from all the heavy bass stuff.  Although this is definitely a song that benefits from brevity.  “Phantom Patriot” has a good bass riff.  It’s a nice stomping song that is catchy but could use another part in it.

On the opposite end from the bass heavy tracks, we have “Iowan Gal” a light-sounding and light-hearted romp about, well, an Iowan Gal. Les plays bass banjo and there are lots of little quirks in there–bow ditty bow bow.  “Nothing Ventured” has some cool vibes and sax.  It’s fun to hear the Robot Chicken theme song in here as well.  “Filipino Ray” has some good funky bass.  The disc ends nicely with “Off-White Guilt” a cool instrumental with horns and vibes.

I imagine that Les was happy to get more into his own head on this album.  But as with lot of other things he’s done, I feel like when he plays well with others he really shines.

[READ: January 21, 2015] “The Start of the Affair”

Despite the title, I felt that this story was really quite sad.

Set in South Africa, this is the story of James MacPherson, a retired professor from Johannesburg.  He has settled down and bought a restaurant. He doesn’t really have much to do with the restaurant itself, leaving all of the day to day decisions to the manager, Yacine, a Moroccan.  We learn quite a bit about James, but the story has more to do with James’ interest in a local merchant named Ahmed.

Ahmed is Somali and reminds James of a Somali boy he knew once a long times ago.  James never did anything with that boy and when he first saw Ahmed her feared that it was the same boy just now grown up.  But when that proved to be untrue, James decided to show some interest in the young man. (more…)

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eyeballAfter touring with Primus for a bit, Les met up with Buckethead, Bernie Worrell, and Brain at the 2002 Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival. Worrell, Brain and Buckethead were there to perform with Bill Laswell as Praxis, but Laswell was not able to play.  So Claypool invited them to jam with him and the Bucket(head) of Bernie (Worrell) Brain(s) was formed.

This is another fun jam band for Les with jamming credentials (Bonnaroo and all).  But the biggest change to the overall sound is the addition of Bernie Worrell on funk keyboards which adds a radically new dimension to Claypool’s music.  And Claypool plays along accordingly.

The disc opens with keyboards! (even a song that’s all about Buckethead opens with keyboards).  The verses are carnivalesque while the chorus are funky with Les’ wild bass and some good keyboards from Bernie.  Even though the guitars from Buckethead are great they don’t really stand out amid the music—there’s no room for showing off in this bunch (although his solo at 4:30 is pretty groovy).  I love the riffs (keys) at 3:00, it’s a great section and could have easily been a whole song.

I find that the more I enjoy the jamming music that Les creates the less I enjoy his vocals/lyrics.  It seems like his songs get limited when he starts using conventional (sic) verse chorus structure.  So I love the chorus that he sings on”Thai Noodles,” but the verses just don’t seem to fit with the interesting music going on.

“Tyranny of the Hunt” has an interesting weird riff, but the real highlight of the disc is “Elephant Ghost.”  I have complained that many of Les’ songs have been too long, but in this case, 11 minutes is just about right for this lengthy groovy jam.  It’s got the kind of melody that doesn’t grow tired after a few minutes and the soloing is really great.  It actually feels a lot shorter than some of his 6 minute songs.

“Hip Shot From the Slab” and “Junior” have that redneck kind of thing that Les has been playing with.  The backing vocals on “Slab” are a nice bright contrast, but I feel like he’s really getting hung up in this darker style of music lately.  “Scott Taylor” is another great instrumental.  I love that the main riff is a keyboard riff–and man is it a good one.  “The Big Eyeball in the Sky” is an anti-televsion song.  “Jackalope”is  a bouncing bass heavy instrumental.  It is the least fun of the three.  “48 Hours to Go” is a little dull, but the disc ends with the interesting “Ignorance is Bliss.”  This is a great change of pace with a cool violin/fiddle sound and good vocals.

Even though Claypool is ostensibly the leader of the band, I like these songs best when he take a backseat and lets the other guys shine.

[READ: January 21, 2015] “Savage Breast”

Now this was a weird little story.

It opens with a woman saying that the day was ordinary aside from her headache.  She was supposed to go to a party that night but didn’t feel like it.  So she took a nap instead.

But when she woke up she found out that the room she was in was not her own, but rather her childhood bedroom.  Everything was exactly as she remembered it–all details perfectly in place, including the view out the window and the clothes in the closet (which were her childhood clothes but still fit her).  Weird, right?  But even weirder was the fact that the other person in the house with her was a beast–a big hairy beast.  And yet, as she got nearer and nearer she realized that the beast was actually her mother–it acted like her, lay like her and behaved like her, even if she was totally covered in fur.

In fact, when her “sister” beast comes home, she acts exactly the way her sister did when they were kids.  And when her “father” beast comes home after work, he has the exact same drink that her real father always had.  It’s like a crazy flashback to her childhood, except that everyone is a beast.  (more…)

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dec8SOUNDTRACK: LER & HERB during the hiatus (1999-2003 & 1994-2003)

1201_Tim_Alexander_Lead lerDuring the years that Ler and Herb were out of Primus, it’s a fair question to wonder what they were up to.

Larry “Ler” LaLonde was only “on hiatus” for a couple of years.  During that time, Ler created an electronic band (no guitars!) with Brain (who mastered the business and the beats) and DJ Disk (who drank grappa), and The Filthy Ape (who enjoyed a casual snack and read a good book), while Ler himself was on the flying boat (whatever that means).   Take what you will from that.  They released two albums which I’ve written about earlier: Lee’s Oriental Massage 415-626-1837 and God is an Excuse.

They are both electronic and or full of spoken nonsense and neither one is really worth hunting down.

Tim “Herb” Alexander was out of Primus for about 8 years.  And during that time he was rather busy. He started a band called Laundry, which released two albums Blacktongue (1994) (which you can listen to on Youtube) and Motivator (which is on Spotify). He also made an album with a supergroup called Attention Deficit (with Alex Skolnick – Guitar and Michael Manning – Bass).  They made two albums, Attention Deficit (1998) and The Idiot King (2001).  he also drummed on one song on the A Perfect Circle album Mer de Noms.

I haven’t really listened to all of his stuff that much.  Laundry is a sort of noisy kinda Primusy prog metal outfit Blacktongue is noisy than Motivator (and Herb sings lead on the second disc, and his voice is better suited to the music).  I’m curious about Attention Deficit, so I’ll have to give them a listen one of these days.

[READ: January 21, 2015] “Reverend”

This story was actually quite simple in plot, but it revealed a great deal that was hidden.  A man who has just lost his mother, reflects back upon the life he led with his parents and siblings.

The narrator’s father was the titular reverend.  Being a reverend was an extremely important part of his father’s life.  Indeed, he even met his wife when they both considered becoming missionaries.

They had three children–their oldest son–who grew up to be extremely anti-religion; a daughter who was very religious but not very smart and then the narrator who was, by his own admission, completely middle of the road in front of his parents. He didn’t believe in religion, but he never made waves with his parents.  He was smart but he never showed off.  And he believes that this milquetoast attitude may have upset his father more than anything. (more…)

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dec12014SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People (2003).

animalsWhile the EP section oft he release was disappointing, the DVD portion was fantastic.

In addition to all of the band’s videos (which have held up quite well), there’s commentary for all three guys on some of them.  But beyond that, they have compiled most of the footage from the previously released VHS recordings: Cheesy Home Video and Horrible Men, as well as the fan only Horrible Swill.

And for the real fan, there’s all kinds of live performances, some dating all the way back to 1986, with the original band playing together.

  •      “To Defy the Laws of Tradition,” “Too Many Puppies” and “Frizzle Fry” from a campus radio show in 1989.
  •      “Groundhog’s Day” and “Mr. Krinkle” from New Years Eve 1993.
  •      “Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers” and “My Name is Mud (Bootleg Quality)” from Woodstock 94.
  •      “Pudding Time” and “Southbound Pachyderm” from 1995.
  • “Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread” for HBO in 1998.
  • “Lacquer Head” Family Values Tour 1999.

and these rarities:

  • “Sgt. Baker” – Recorded at a rent party  sometime between 1986 and 1988
  • “Groundhog’s Day” – Recorded at the Omni in Oakland in late 1988
  • “Tommy the Cat” – Recorded by Bob Cock and the Yellow Sock.

That’s a great collection of stuff for any Primus fan.

[READ: January 20, 2015] “One Gram Short”

Keret seems to specialize in short stories.  This one was just over two pages (translated from the Hebrew by Nathan Englander).

It opens with a man who confesses to only going to a certain coffee bar because he thinks the waitress is cute.  He wants to ask her out but is afraid that “the movies” sounds like too big of a commitment, plus if she says no, that’s the end of them.  He understands that she likes smoking pot so he figures he’ll ask her to share a joint with him.

The problem is that he doesn’t have any.  So he contacts his old friend (whom he hasn’t talked to in years).  The friend immediately tells him that he’s dry–the whole country is dry.  “They closed the Lebanese border on us because of the trouble in Syria, and they closed Egypt because of all that al-Qaeda shit.”  The narrator is a bit put off that his friend assumes he’s calling for pot (even if that is why).  He emphasizes that all he wants is enough for one join so he can smoke with this girl but the friend can’t help him.

The next day though, his friend calls back with a deal.  He knows of a guy who has a prescription for medical marijuana.  But he doesn’t like the stuff, so he’s not using it–he has like ten grams.  And he wants to meet with the two of them. (more…)

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ny2014SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People (2003).

animalsAnd then in 2003 Primus reunited-Ler, Les and Herb!  They did a tour and they got together and they jammed out an EP.  While Les has said that the songs flowed pretty easily and that they wrote them pretty quickly, the magic didn’t last very long and after a few shows they went their separate ways.

This release is a combination DVD/EP.  And this post is just about the EP.

There are five songs on the disc.  And my general opinion of the songs is that they would probably sound great live in a cool jamming situation.  But on record most of these songs, even the 4 minute ones, seem really long.  Claypool has been playing with a lot of jamming bands in the hiatus, so that makes sense.  But even when Primus played long songs in the past, they were nicely varied.  These 7 minutes songs are pretty much the same riff over and over with an occasional break for a solo.

And it’s a shame because the riffs are interesting and the solos sound great but none of these songs should be more than 4 minutes long.

The EP starts promising with “The Carpenter and the Dainty Bride.”  It has a fun crazy bass and a cool guitar intro before the vocals come in.  But its when the vocals come in that the song grows kind of uninteresting—they are whispered and a little hard to understand.  And the music is a little too simple for such a mellow section.  When the solo comes in–at 4:42–the change is welcomed, but it’s a long way to get there.  When the song restarts, it’s a little disappointing.  “Pilcher’s Squad”  is under 2 minutes.  It’s a nice change to have a short stomper.  The guitar squeaks are cool, but the song is not that memorable.

“Mary the Ice Cube”  was the single from the album.  The bass and guitar are interesting, but the lyrics are just so blah–almot like Les was trying to “do” a Primus song.  The song feels like it drags on for a really long time and yet it’s only 4:30.  “The Last Superpower aka Rapscallion” has cool big round bass and crazy guitars, but I really don’t like the vocals, especially the “don’t like…you” section which seems way un-Primus to me.  I do like the King Crimson guitar part and the wild solo at 3:30, (even if the songs feels like it should be over by then).  After all the solos its hard to fathom that the song starts up again, which it does.

“My Friend Fats”  ends the disc and is also kind of disappointing.  The whole melody of the song seems to be a few drum thuds with some occasional sounds from bass and guitar.  It also feels like it could have ended about 3 minutes earlier.  Lyrically it’s interesting though, I would have liked it with more interesting music (and for it to be a lot shorter).

The whole EP feels like a lot of good ideas that could be edited into something tighter and more exciting.

It’s a good thing that the DVD is so awesome.

[READ: January 19, 2015] “Eykelboom”

This was a strange story–the first I have read by Brad Watson.  Although perhaps it is strange because I didn’t have a sense of who or what Eykelboom was when the story started.   Even the first sentence, “Where had they comes from, the Eykelbooms?” wasn’t very helpful.

It turned out that the Eykelbooms were a family that had moved into the neighborhood.  The boys suspected they were from Indiana or Illinois: “some crude and faceless Yankee state” (!).  Mr Eykelboom owned a dump truck and he would roar up and down the road blaring his awful horn as he went, letting everyone know he was coming, even though no one cared.

But the biggest problem with the Eykelbooms was their son.  He hung around with the other boys but he never quite fit in.  He was clean and neat and not a troublemaker and he was fordbidden from dong many of the things that the neighborhood boys did like playing in the drainage ditch–a great hide out if ever there was.  Or to go in the forest (the man who owned the property before selling some for the extant houses also owned the forest and he hated the neighborhood kids). (more…)

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