Archive for the ‘Gabby La La’ Category

 dec22 SOUNDTRACK: LES CLAYPOOL-Of Whales and Woe (2006).

whaleswoe Although Les Claypool had been making all manner of jam band based “solo” records, he finally got around to releasing another one under just his name.  Although interestingly, Frog Brigade members Skerik on sax, Mike Dillon on vibes and marimba and Gabby La la all appear on this disc as well.   But this is the Les show, from start to finish.

I had reviewed this disc a few years ago.  Some things I said then:

On the first few listens, when I wasn’t listening very carefully, I really enjoyed the disc.  It reminded me a lot of Primus, although it had a lot of Les’ solo quirks.  However, once I started scrutinizing it a bit more, I found I didn’t enjoy it as much.

Most of the songs are stories about various bizarro characters.  And although I love Les’ characters, this turns into one of the downfalls of the disc.  In the great tradition of storytelling songs, the songs tend to be verses only with nary a chorus.  And that’s fine because most storytellers use the music as a background to accompany the story.  Les’ music is far too aggressive/innovative/interesting to be  background.  So when you get a great wild bass line, you’re attracted to it.  But when it lasts for 5 minutes with no changes, it’s exhausting.  And trying to listen to lyrics along with it is, well, I think your brain just shuts down (especially when they are recorded low in the mix and are hard to hear).  And so, the album feels a lot longer than it is.

“Back Off Turkey” is wild and crazy sounding music but the vocals are so muddy it’s impossible to tell what’s up with the song.  It feels more like randomness than an actual song.  “One Better” is an amazing track, highlighting just how great Claypool is as a songwriter and arranger.  This song lasts pretty long but because there’s a lot of different things going on, it never overstays its welcome.  The vibes are great once again and this has a great sax solo.  “Lust Stings” sounds a lot like Tom Waits.  Musically it is interesting but lyrically not so much.

“Of Whales and Woe” has a great bass line and I love the theremin solo (from Gabby La La). Gabby also plays sitar on “Vernon the Company Man.”  The sitar is a great change of pace from all the heavy bass stuff.  Although this is definitely a song that benefits from brevity.  “Phantom Patriot” has a good bass riff.  It’s a nice stomping song that is catchy but could use another part in it.

On the opposite end from the bass heavy tracks, we have “Iowan Gal” a light-sounding and light-hearted romp about, well, an Iowan Gal. Les plays bass banjo and there are lots of little quirks in there–bow ditty bow bow.  “Nothing Ventured” has some cool vibes and sax.  It’s fun to hear the Robot Chicken theme song in here as well.  “Filipino Ray” has some good funky bass.  The disc ends nicely with “Off-White Guilt” a cool instrumental with horns and vibes.

I imagine that Les was happy to get more into his own head on this album.  But as with lot of other things he’s done, I feel like when he plays well with others he really shines.

[READ: January 21, 2015] “The Start of the Affair”

Despite the title, I felt that this story was really quite sad.

Set in South Africa, this is the story of James MacPherson, a retired professor from Johannesburg.  He has settled down and bought a restaurant. He doesn’t really have much to do with the restaurant itself, leaving all of the day to day decisions to the manager, Yacine, a Moroccan.  We learn quite a bit about James, but the story has more to do with James’ interest in a local merchant named Ahmed.

Ahmed is Somali and reminds James of a Somali boy he knew once a long times ago.  James never did anything with that boy and when he first saw Ahmed her feared that it was the same boy just now grown up.  But when that proved to be untrue, James decided to show some interest in the young man. (more…)

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onionThis is the first and so far only studio album from the Les Claypool Frog Brigade (line up slightly different from the live albums).  I think it’s one of his best solo releases in terms of overall musical complexity.  The addition of Skerik on sax makes a world of difference to Les’ songs and even better is percussionist Mike “Tree Frog” Dillon on vibraphone–which adds a new level of depth to these songs.  Also having a backing vocalist seems to add even more to them.

Psychotic circus music opens the saga of “David Makalster.”  It’s a riff on the news (where everything’s exactly as it seems).  The chorus is a fun vibraphone filled section–cheerful and fake.  It’s a decent song.   In true Les fashion, he follows it up with a Part II later in the disc in which the truth of the unhappiness is revealed.  Between the two songs it’s 11 minutes long which is too much for this one conceit, although I do like the way the part II revisits the first song in a different way.

But there’s so much else that’s so good on the record.  Like “The Buzzards of Green Hill” which opens with a jaw harp and some cool bass.  It’s a simple up and down riff that is incredibly catchy.  Later it’s got some great guitar and horn solos.  “Long in the Tooth” sounds like a Primus song, but the crazy sax noises turn this into something else entirely.  “Whamola” is a cool song that features Les’ work with the whamola, a one string instrument that features prominently on the song–it’s like a viola that you can do bends on.  It’s a great jam with Fish from Fishbone on drums and Skerik’s crazy sax as well.

“Ding Dang” sounds like it would be a silly song but it actually attacks all forms of prejudice–racist, homophobic ignorance all gets taken to task and then put to a rather cheerful-sounding chorus.  There’s some wild solos on this in song too.   Tolerance is a good thing.

“Barrington Hall” is an interesting creeping sounding song with vibes and bowed bass.  It feels like a kind of silly horror movie song.

“D’s Diner” opens with some backward percussion.  It has a creepy sinister bass line and some crazy vocal all about a yummy dinner.  It features Gabby La La on sitar and Norwood Fisher from Fishbone on bass.  “Lights in the Sky is an atmospheric song which is a bit too long.  “Up on the Roof” has a great slapping bass thing going on and the vibes solo is wonderful.

“Cosmic Highway” ends the disc with a pretty lengthy jam.  It has some great solos from the various instruments–I actually would have preferred this as an instrumental–I think it would have removed the slower parts.  But it’s a fun, trippy album closer.

And after this, Primus would (briefly) reunite.

[READ: January 19, 2015] “The Alaska of Giants and Gods”

In this story (which I imagine is the beginning of a new novel from Eggers), Josie has packed her kids into a (cheap rented) R.V. and has taken them to Alaska.

Josie used to be a dentist.  She was sued by a woman who claimed that Josie should have seen the cancer in her mouth.  Josie was so disgusted, she threw up her hands and said to take everything.  Which the woman did.  She felt the lower forty-eight states were full of cowards and thieves so it was time to get out.

And yet when they crossed the border, the Alaska she imagined was nowhere to be seen–no magic, no pure air, just a regular old city. (more…)

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