Release Date: Oct 21, 2014
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Funk Metal
There have been over half a dozen drummers in Primus over the years, but it's widely accepted that the Tim "Herb" Alexander years were their best. He was there for Primus' debut, one gold and two platinum albums, all in the early to mid-'90s, which made the band a headliner in the golden age of alternative rock.When Alexander left, the band started having less fun, eventually going on hiatus for a few years because of it. They reformed as a live band in the early 2000s, and played with Alexander for many years after that, but it wasn't until old-time member Jay Lane got back on the kit that their creative juices started flowing again and they returned to the studio.
Primus and Willy Wonka. Two cultural experiences guaranteed to elicit the phrase: What the fuck just happened? Naturally, merging the two elicits a second: No, seriously, what the fuck just happened? In a case of the bizarre from the mind of Primus’ bassist and singer Les Claypool, the American funk metal and experimental rock group reimagined the entire soundtrack to the 1971 film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder in a psychedelic flair that rivals the original in acid intake. The darkness and subtle bleakness of the film are highlighted in these covers; Primus & The Chocolate Factory has all the derangement of that scarring riverboat scene, and it’s effective as an adult’s reimagining of the original’s madness.
Always following their own path, Primus have been making the musical world a joyously weird place since they made their debut in 1990 with Frizzle Fry. Now, over 20 years and seven albums later, Primus push themselves to new levels of strangeness with their eighth album, Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, an album that finds the band paying tribute to the iconic music of the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. In the hands of Les Claypool and company, the score, originally penned by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, takes on a darker, more ominous tone.
Tim Burton, it turns out, was the wrong eccentric visionary to take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His 2005 film adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl children’s book left a sour taste in the mouths of viewers who snacked so voraciously on David L. Wolper’s 1971 version, starring Gene Wilder as outlandish confectioner Willy Wonka. One of those viewers was a seven-year-old Les Claypool, whose love of the original film probably had something to do with his own development into the mad, musical genius behind Primus.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (the technicolour 1971 original, not Tim Burton’s CGI-fest from 2005) is the inspiration for the comeback album from Primus’ classic Les Claypool/ Larry Lalonde/Tim Alexander line-up. If you’re familiar with both band and film, you’ll appreciate the synergy: the Primus catalogue and the Gene Wilder film are similar in their sinister, eccentric undertones and DayGlo surfaces. The songs here aren’t remakes of the Wonka soundtrack – apart from Pure Imagination, which is a downright disturbing mutation of the original trippy melody.
Primus and its frontman, Les Claypool, are no strangers to covering other artists’ material. Primus has released two EPs of cover songs over the years, and Claypool just put out an album under the name Duo de Twang that was almost all covers of both his own and others’ material. Claypool’s most ambitious cover project to date came back in 2001, though, when his Frog Brigade released a live album that consisted entirely of the band playing Pink Floyd’s Animals.