Review Summary: Be it seven sons or seven trout, They came to see, with throbbing doubt, the fungi as they pranced about...
Working with other musicians is both a blessing and a curse. For a man like Leslie Edward Claypool (“Les” to his friends and fans), he has been able to freely explore the weird and wonderful alongside Larry LaLonde and Tim Alexander in the damn-near-unclassifiable collective of Primus, over the course of several funk-driven adventures through sludge, thrashing grooves and a fleshy maraca of a slap-bass thumb. Gripping this double-edged sword of collaboration, however, he has evidently had such a clear vision of creativity in writing new material that he felt it a necessity to eliminate every variable factor of his ideas (read: his bandmates) and simply go it alone. The trick in this situation, you must remember, is that the music itself needs to stand out as something only the artist themselves could put their solitary name to. Diversion of sound from the music you’re known for is more or less a necessity.
At this point, you’re done with the trick. We’re talking, after all, about goddamn Les Claypool. Has the crazy old bastard ever stuck to a single sound in his entire life? One thing is for certain on Claypool’s second solo record, Of Fungi and Foe
: This sure as hell ain’t no Primus operation. Welcome to a land of thudding percussion, mostly-nonsensical beat poetry and barely a guitar in sight. In place of your standard electric guitar and drums, we’ve got everything from the sliding whistle, marimba and cello to “uber-dogs of doom” (Claypool is credited to it in the liner notes, jury’s out on what the hell it means). It’s twisted and deranged experimental music that really could only come from one guy.
If there’s one element of the music one could deem a recurring element, it’s the fact that Claypool has created a series of songs with no boundaries and no common bond. This is though-process music, wandering music – a wall of ideas spattered from top to bottom. There’s very few hooks and even less structure to the songs on Of Fungi and Foe
– a trait with both its good and bad points. For one thing, there’s rarely a dull moment on the record. With every trail of warped, virtuoso bass patterns and deranged vocal grunts, a lot of fun is to be had in Claypool’s playground of his crazy-old-man persona.
Opener “Mushroom Men” rollicks through a thundering march beat as a mixture of chants and poetry flies past, whilst the sick and twisted “Red State Girl” is a whirlwind of Indian percussion, screeching cello and a croaky, perverted tone to Claypool’s hilarious voice and lyrics (Budweiser, the Redskins and Sarah Palin all get mentions). Also well worth investigating is the groovy “You Can’t Tell Errol Anything”. Perhaps the most Primus-like track on the record, Claypool growls out a Sprechgesang rant about a super-intelligent drug dealer who gets everything his way. As we’re reminded in the chorus, the reason we can’t tell Errol anything is simple: “’Cause Errol knows everything”.
Despite there being plenty to dig about the record, Fungi
at the same time generally seems to lack the cohesion of his Primus material, and the album’s low points are bizarrely stretched out for ridiculous amounts of time. “Pretty Little Song” clods along, dragging a one-idea concept (“Sing a little song/A pretty little song”) over unimaginative bass twang. Its successor, the mercifully brief title track, irritates eardrums as much as possible with ugly tuneless drones beneath clattering percussion. There are moments on the album, especially nearing its end, where you strongly feel it has overstayed its welcome.
Of Fungi and Foe
is ridiculous, spasmodic, wild, freely experimental and generally complete chaos. Perhaps the best way to sum the album up is that it is weird music for weird people – give it a shot, by all means; but it’s certainly a record that’s keen to eliminate the room of squares almost instantly.