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Friday, March 20, 2009

CD Review: Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe

Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe
2009 Prawn Song Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Not that Primus is what any sane person would consider a conventional rock band, but you might say the future was staked at least for Les Claypool when he revealed not only his affinity for Parliament-blazed funk, but also cello fugue with Primus' avant-guarde hit "Mr. Krinkle" from their frequently goofy Pork Soda album.

Already proving himself modern rock's most innovative and eccentric bassist, the manic funk punk of Primus was hardly enough to contain the swirling bughouse straining Claypool's teeming temples, much less his dexterous hand grips. The grinding and joyously disturbed cello of "Mr. Krinkle" should've been considered fair warning. Never mind Claypool's doings in Oysterhead and Sausage; it's the unchained freewheeling of his solo albums which truly reveal how twisted this cat is. You'd never guess one of Les Claypool's first music gigs was in an obscure metalpunk band from the mid-eighties, Blind Illusion, not when you hear him scat gibberish galore in an exaggerated redneck swill on his latest album Of Fungi and Foe.

A sequel to Claypool's 2006 album Of Whales and Woe, you may ask? In sound theory, sure. In a daft and cracked egg demeanor? Absolutely. One thing's for sure about Of Fungi and Foe, Les Claypool hasn't lost his disorderly sense of humor. Whether he's bitch-slapping elitist progheads on "You Can't Tell Errol Anything" or he's painting a seemingly cutesy ditty about a comely girl who just so happens to pee on the sidewalk for fun on "Kazoo" or whether Claypool is torching doobie suckers on the hilarious "Primed By 29," Of Fungi and Foe has its cheek slammed straight to the pavement.

Regarding the conception of this album, Claypool relays being contracted to do music scoring for the Mushroom Men video game and an underground film Pig Hunt, which spilled straight into this hazy and syrupy funk rock endeavor. Consider Of Fungi and Foe something along the lines of George Clinton blowing benevolent ganja smoke into an already laced-out looney bin soundtrack and accented by martini-swigging marimba swirls, weepy cello slides and big-top drum blats.

Claypool creates a continuous calliope of the damned vibe to Of Fungi and Foe on other songs such as "Roscoe," "What Would Sir George Martin Do" and the zany tabla-lounge lunacy of "Red State Girl," the latter being an ode to a backwoods white trasher with an affirmed crush on do-goodie conservative chicks with "tits made out of recycled bottles" and who "want to grow up to be Sarah Palin."

"Mushroom Men" kicks the album with a whumping tempo, xylophone-tingled mayhem and Claypool's otherworldly bass akin to off-kilter heart murmurs, while "Booneville Stomp" is the closest nod to Primus with its swampy bass and rhythmic funk twangs. Then there's the rhumba-flavored mutant mosh of "Bite Out of Life" that radiates disco hell, frying pan clatter and cuckoo's nest groaning as the song jives nervily along.

Baked out of the conjugal drag of Claypool's weedy sideshow microcosm, Of Fungi and Foe is trippy but moreso it's daringly punchy and unashamedly dweebish. Anyone following Claypool all this time is going to oblige his toiled, burping vocals on "Kazoo" because it fits his screwy, moonstruck candor, particularly with the concentrated chimes and strutting violins assisting this cool little number.

Of course, when you have a line like "Jeeze what a horrible song, it stinks like a big wet donkey dong" from the backwashed "Primed By 29," it's not going to take much else to win over Claypool's devout, much less mere fans of knucklehead art rock. A tune where Claypool subliminally comments that smoking dope or doing 'shrooms alters perceptions to the point of idiocy, "Primed By 29" may just be the declarative anthem to Claypool's batty career.

Rating: ****


Martin said...

The dude is hard to hate. Even if the music doesn't appeal, the lyrics will. Always entertaining stuff. Primus sucks!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

You betcha. I can't believe back in the day I wrote angry retaliatory graffiti at someone else writing "Primus Sucks!" on the bathroom wall in college. The dude wrote back "Know your Primus!" Good times.

Anonymous said...

It's a double bass, not a cello. Jesus titty-fucking christ, is this guy really a music journalist!?

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Anonymous said...

He plays a stand up base, not a cello, smart guy. Oh, and mushroom men? That is called a Whamola, it's not a bass guitar. Why don't you try reading sometime?

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