Album Review: Four Foot Shack by Les Claypool's Duo De Twang
Fairly Good, Based on 9 Critics
The Line of Best Fit - 75 Based on rating 7.5/10
Here’s the thing: you know if you’re gonna like this or not before you even hear it. Les Claypool’s work has been many things over the years, but almost all of it channels a weirdness unique to him. Whether it’s Primus or any of the dozen side projects he’s started, the common theme is Claypool’s inherent personality. So, depending on whom you ask, it’s either his greatest asset or greatest hindrance as a songwriter and performer.
Of all the things that Les Claypool is a master of, subtly is not one of them. Armed with an arsenal of bass guitars and a sensibility that merged Zappa-esque irreverent virtuosity with cornpone whimsy, Claypool has been on a decades-long mission to make truly "alternative" music, mashing up styles and influences that most people would never conceive of. Because of this legacy, an album like Four Foot Shack, the first from his project Les Claypool's Duo De Twang, is both a refreshingly weird departure from what everyone else is doing and a completely normal offering from the bass wizard.
Les Claypool is a busy man. Besides keeping Primus going for more than 25 years, he’s dabbled in all sorts of side projects, solo work, and guest appearances. Four Foot Shack can’t exactly be considered a departure for the bassist; he’s done scattered twangy acoustic material in the past. But it is the first time he has done an entire album in this fashion.
Despite this Les Claypool fronted, two man side project’s name, there isn’t much twang on the near hour long, 15 track set of radically rearranged covers. The freakazoid Primus bassist/vocalist/frontman joins with long time friend and guitarist Bryan Kehoe. Together they deconstruct Primus, solo, country and surf classics in a stripped down environment of just bass, guitar and an ever-present stomping foot.
Les Claypool, possibly the world’s greatest bass player, has been on a relentlessly prolific run in recent years, knocking out Primus and solo albums every year or so. This new one is basically him messing about with his guitarist buddy Bryan Kehoe, playing versions of Primus and other bands’ songs in a hillbilly/country acoustic style. If you think that’s harsh, Claypool’s own words on the press release are: “When all is said and done, it’s just a hell of a fun project for me right now.
If you ever wanted to hear King Crimson tap out Mungo Jerry songs, then, boy, does Primus frontdude Les Claypool have a record for you. In Duo De Twang, the bassist pairs his familiar combat-boot Bootsy Collins moves with guitarist Brian Kehoe (an old thrash-metal pal from the Eighties). Their debut kicks a spittoon down the fine line between "weirdly hypnotic" and "profoundly irritating," with goofy covers of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box," and a whole lot of jug-band scat from Claypool.
Primus mastermind Les Claypool never rests. There’s always a tour, or a guest appearance, or a new side project on tap. His downtime is spent authoring books or writing screenplays. And there’s also the constant business of running his boutique wine company, Claypool Cellars. For a man who ….
Les Claypool’s long and illustrious career has taught us to never anticipate what he’s going to do next and certainly never underestimate it. Dark, ominous and as weird as usual — with dominant and dense bass lines — the Primus frontman’s foray into country music, Four Foot Shack, sounds like two characters from a Rob Zombie film started a bluegrass band on the front porch from House of 1000 Corpses. That is, if they each had 30 fingers and enough wry humor and satirical punch to have made Warren Zevon jealous.
Les Claypool's Duo de Twang Four Foot Shack (ATO) This album is very dumb, but that almost makes it feel like Les Claypool won. Of course the famed Primus bassist made a weird, broken country album, and naturally it's the sonic equivalent of a bloopers soundtrack. Duo de Twang pairs Claypool with guitarist Bryan Kehoe for (surprise) bass-heavy songs with a ridiculous dosage of gooey heartland guitar squeal.