Purple Onion – Les Claypool Frog Brigade
Prawn Song Records
Hurrah! Les Claypool is back in my life! And the new Les has a far fuller
kitchen than the one I left sometime after the Tales from the
tour upwards of five years ago. This album has horns, strings, jaw harp,
vibraphone, theatrics ala Tom Waits, jamband-inflected vocals, jazzy
numbers and electronic noises, all combined with Les's characteristically
quirky self to create a hearty sonic stew.
Both serious and inane, with a healthy dollop of good fun, the album takes
you on a series of adventures with David Makalaster, your ten o'clock
newscaster, as your nasty little guide. Makalaster, this album's Prof.
Nutbutter-cum-Sgt. Baker, is a television personality who seems sinister and
twisted, until you realize that he's really just saying what lies between
the lines of your average newscast, particularly the second time around.
Beyond Les on bass and vocals, this album features sax man Skerik of
Critters Buggin, guitarist Eenor, and drummer Mike "Tree Frog" Dillon, in
addition to a panoply of special guests.
Your adventure starts with the experimentally noisy, mostly
incomprehensible "Purple Onion", which segues into the first incarnation of
"David Makalaster", a bouncy theatrical number. Warren Haynes adds a
rather jammy feel to the "Buzzards of Green Hill". "Long in the Tooth" is
a typically humorous Les interlude, with some great sax playing. The
extended jamming on "Whamola" is the kind of thing probably better seen
live, featuring Les's special one-string bass played with a drum
stick. "Ding Dang" introduces a host of unnamed characters who have been
marginalized as youths, over a jazzy number that brings to mind the good
Rev. Horton Heat. Strings and vibes join the band for the spooky
"Barrington Hall". An ode to "D's Diner" is unique for the three bassists
it features as well as the sitar solo. Aliens are coming to abduct the
protagonist of "Lights in the Sky". Begging to keep his lighter, "Up on
the Roof Again" could almost be a classic Primus song, plus vibes and a bit
of a classic rock chorus. Then, "Makalaster" comes back in demonic form:
I’m David Makalaster,
Your 10 o'clock newscaster
And the shit has just hit the fan
The film I’m about to show you
Will fill and overflow you
With a rage that's beyond command
Get off your ass
Vengeance is back in style.
Then we hop on the bumbly "Cosmic Highway" to the end, where Beach Boys
harmonies wave to you on the way out.
Funny, I had just been pulling out the old Primus albums – comfort food as
I move into a new apartment – when this one came along. I love Primus, and
have many happy high school memories surrounding the suckiest band in the
world. But I kinda lost interest sometime around when Herb the Ginseng
Drummer split, as the vocals got more obscured behind crunchy
distortion. Honestly, my most favorite Primus album is Frizzle Fry
started with Pork Soda and working backwards. And I never got hooked
Les's other side projects – Sausage, The Holy Mackerel, or Oysterhead – but
this one, well, it just rocks. It's not Primus, so it can't suck, but it
can sure taste good.