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Published: 2001/10/19
by Jesse Jarnow

The Grand Pecking Order – Oysterhead

Elektra Records

Oysterhead is a cock glowing grandly, proud of its own size and legendary status, their album a porn flick where the stars know they can fuck with such violent grace that no one has ever seen the likes of it before.

They are undoubtedly a supergroup, if ever there was one. The result is the
opposite of sublimation. The trio (that's Phish's Trey Anastasio, Primus's
Les Claypool, and The Police's Stewart Copeland) has used their status as
superstars not to bury their egos, but to create a brightly shining and
utterly bombastic record only possible with the liberated lack of
inhibitions that comes with massive amounts of commercial success.

Is it any good? Well, do you like porn, little boy?

"The Grand Pecking Order", unfortunately, is not exciting. It is a good
album, but not that good. It rocks, but not too hard. It's
weird, but not too weird. The sound is an equal mix of Phish and
Primus: there's a lot of Phish in the melody, a lot of Primus in the force.
Mostly, though, what is remarkable about Oysterhead is the lack of things to
remark about.

Phish, especially, was always great fun to write about because one could
readily point out specific elements and unravel them. Even before they had
an accumulated history, they were conceptual in a focused way such that one
could always pick out a central pearl of an idea at the center of their
music. Primus, too, for that matter – at their peak – had a distinct world
view that one could derive their music to (and from). The Police, as well.

Perhaps it is a product of their respective ages and the stages they are at
in their relative artistic developments, but it seems as if – beyond the
fact that they exist at all – Oysterhead's music has very little to actually
say. Somebody once opined that, as an artist, one will say most
everything he is capable of saying in the first 10 years of his career and
spend the rest of his life refining and streamlining that. It is more than a
vaguely depressing prospect that, if it holds water, begins to bring
Oysterhead into a little bit more light.

Primus is on hiatus. Phish is on hiatus. Claypool and Anastasio were
obviously somehow dissatisfied with where they found themselves. Continuing
on in those guises would just be going through the motions. Where Oysterhead
shines, then, is in its recontextualization of the pair. Neither does much
of anything new on the album, per se, but it helps both to bring out
new aspects of their approaches.

Ultimately (with the exception of two tumbling acoustic numbers, Radon
Balloon and Birthday Boys, which seem to have been penned solely
by Anastasio), the music is inward looking. It is not self-reflective,
though, nor is it particularly navel-gazing, but it is as if the three
musicians are hovering around something – their backs to the camera – that
they are not ready to reveal to the public yet. They could be bluffing, they
may have found something. "The Grand Pecking Order", though, is not it.

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