Primus – [Album]

Primus – [Album]

Saturday, 15 August 2015
ARTIST: Primus – [Album]
DATE: 08-15-15
REVIEW BY: Bill Adams
ALBUM: Primus & The Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble
LABEL: Prawn Song/ATO/Maple Music Recordings

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Even before they hear a note of music, sometimes listeners already know why a band elected to cover an album/film score/collection from front to back: it just makes sense that they’d do it. Sometimes, it’s almost like both the band and its members were born to cover that particular piece of music, and the only question is the matter of when they’ll get around to doing something about it. Granted, things like that usually happen as stage productions, but hey – it has happened in the recording studio too. That said, it should come as no surprise that Primus has elected to cover the score from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in its entirety for their eighth studio album – the film (as well as its 2005, Tim Burton-directed counterpart, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is pretty surreal and musically abstract, and Primus has made a career of making such music but elevating to the highest form of performance art. While not directly connected, the band and the score were made for each other.

That said, all of what those who know Primus could expect of the band is present and accounted for after “Hello Wonkites” opens Primus & That Chocolate Factory with a bit of wordless overture to let the band warm up and get comfortable. There, Les Claypool’s bass wobbles along on Gene Wilder’s vocal melody (listeners will have to actively resist the urge to whisper the words “Pure imagination” at the appropriate moments) as Larry Lalonde’s guitar simultaneously adds some woe and sadness as well as a backdrop of menace to the proceedings while Tim Alexander (uncharacteristically) really lays up and just keeps time on his drum kit. In effect, Primus perfectly collects the underlying sonic themes that the original Wonka film embodied, but crossbreeds them with the brightly colored, thoroughly unsettling vibes of Tim Burton’s film; it’s the best of both worlds in Primus’ hands.

That crossbreed of cinematic form holds up marvelously as the album continues too. With bizarre, almost dreamlike percussion (tabla, marimba, vibraphone) supplied by Mike Dillon coloring the edges of the tracks, Primus sets to covering sets to covering this cinematic score as only they really could; Claypool marches listeners through the proceedings with his bass alternating between acting as a mirror for the beat, the melody and (gasp!) the bass parts which originally appeared in the music that fans remember, while Lalonde dances around Claypool, further fleshes out the material and really “Primus-izes” it by adding just the right amount of darkness, dissonance and venom. It works well, of course – standout tracks including “Candy Man,” “Golden Ticket,” “I Want It Now” (which further adds to th “soundtrack” or “score” feel by featuring a rare vocal contribution from Lalonde) and the very “music concrete” performance of “Wonkmobile” all brim with an energy that equally balances “Primus” and “Wonka” flavors – and the results are captivating. Listeners won’t be able to deny that the amount of care put into both faithfully reproducing this score as well as putting an inimitably ‘Primus’ stamp on it is staggering. The only possible complaint that one could make is that the forward motion of the music is just a little too methodical, but even that qualifies as apt for the source material – it could be argued. In that regard, yes, Primus & The Chocolate Factory is a fantastic exposition both of Primus’ talent as well as for the score’s enduring appeal; some may complain that substituting the score’s original, wistful air with darker tones is not appropriate, but what did they expect? Primus has built their career on being both a little bizarre and a whole lot of fun with always shading their whites to grey, and this album is no exception.



Primus & The Chocolate Factory
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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