Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Album Review: Primus- Primus & the Chocolate Factory with Fungi Ensemble

Primus & the Chocolate Factory with Fungi Ensemble
*and1/2 out of *****
Over the summer Les Claypool put out one of the quotes of the year when he was pumping his upcoming release. Primus were getting ready to showcase their take on the songs from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory and his quote took on the recent remake:
We need to make sure that kids in the future watch the original Willy Wonka and not the horrendous, horrible remake that came along and left the taste of feces in our mouths. There are a lot of very talented people on the planet. And Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are two of those very talented people. But like all human beings, every now and then, we crap in our pants.
Yeah that movie sucked sucked sucked. Recent efforts from Claypool solo have boarded on the absurd (Killer Pig Soundtracks?) and veered pretty close to sucking too (not in the good Primus way either). While Wonka fits the weirdness, what really made ears perk up was the reuniting of the best Primus lineup, meaning Tim "Herb" Alexander would be returning to the mix.

A funny thing happens though when you listen to P&TCFwFA, it has zero of classic era Primus qualities. Larry Lelonde's angular guitars or Herb's pounding unique rhythms? Nowhere to be seen and the final product plays as a solo Claypool vanity piece. Perhaps worse, it lacks energy and drive, subsisting sparseness and creepy vocals.    

While not a song by song remake of the original soundtrack it does stick close and after the instrumental "Hello Wonkites" introduces the very prominent Fungi Ensemble of percussionist Mike Dillon and cellist Sam Bass, Claypool takes over. The freaky singing and changing tempo with "Candy Man" shows where the band is headed and would be a good intro but things don't pick up at all from there.

"Pure Imagination" gets big in the chorus but again turns down the tempo and cuts out instruments leaving space and a dull sense of going nowhere. The Oompa breaks are prime candidates for big slap bass and weirdness but they are played by the book and don't color anything purple, chocolate or golden.

Bringing Herb back into the mix and not having him play a proper kit was an odd choice; it is impossible to figure out which parts he contributes as Dillon is also a master of beating on odd things uniquely. The Primus moniker is a misnomer, Lalonde in particular is almost absent from the full disk except showing up to get out a solo and take over lead vocals as Veruca Salt in "I Want It Now".

This is clearly Claypool's baby and a tame, incredibly restrained one at that. It should be noted a huge opportunity was missed with "Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride" as the chaos of the original film and soundtrack seems perfectly suited for a mega Primus freak out in the vein of "Hamburger Train" or "Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats".

In fact Tales from the Punch Bowl would make a better companion to Willy Wonka ala Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz, then this release would.  

A cool idea in theory but one that doesn't succeed like it should. Very much like another recent cover album release, this is one belongs in the live setting, let the players inject more energy into the proceedings. Not a "crap in your pants" album but almost worse, it is dull and forgettable.     

We were very stoked when we learned about this, but it didn't live up to expectations. Here's hoping the show on Friday does....

Support the band here, buy the album here and peep some video below:

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