Primus: Primus & The Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble
A journey into the labyrinthine ringmaster’s mind of Les Claypool (or to be more precise, the artist known as Les Claypool) is like a rickety rollercoaster ride with your long-lost, oddball uncle—full of wild, unexpected and slightly creepy twists and turns. Gene Wilder’s performance in 1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory comes across in pretty much the same way, which explains a lot about Claypool’s childhood obsession with the film, as well as the grip of mad nostalgia that inspired him to tackle the music with Primus. Primus & The Chocolate Factory is a tricked-out vehicle for the return of drummer Tim Alexander, who plays pots, pans and the kitchen sink (“Cheer Up Charlie”) between extended bouts of thump-and-clang (“Candy Man” and the way-gone “Golden Ticket”). It’s an impressive display, and Claypool is nerd-perfect in the four-part “Oompa Loompa” suite, with his bass roiling and moaning like a cow in heat. Sure, sometimes the shtick overshadows the artistry; Larry LaLonde’s brilliant surf-style guitar on “I Want It Now” feels too fleeting, while the Fungi Ensemble—Claypool percussionist cohort Mike Dillon and Frog Brigade cellist Sam Bass—seems to get lost in the din. (“Pure Imagination,” with Dillon’s spacey vibraphone, is a notable exception.) As usual with Primus, it’s all built into the price of the ticket.