Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Primus takes on ‘Willy Wonka’ in strange new album

By Jack Nichols

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Attempting to combat the horrific 2005 remake of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Primus bassist and front man Les Claypool has written an album dedicated specifically to the original movie.

Primus’ new album, the first since 1995 with the multi-platinum lineup of Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander, creates a wild and new sound unique to this interesting band.

Claypool repeatedly stated in interviews that he believed that “Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble” would be a remarkable new sound for the group. On the album, released Oct. 21, Claypool’s promise held true as the band adopted some new instruments, including strings, vibraphone and marimba. Accompanying these new sounds was Alexander in a wild new percussion set-up. In an eclectic mash-up of things to bang on, Alexander was able to stray from the band’s normal sound and experiment with some new ideas.

Those listening to the album with hopes of finding something reminiscent of Leslie Bricusse’s original score for the movie should look elsewhere. The band takes the soundtrack and uses its special ability to turn it into something creepy and wonderful. Playing off of old memories, Primus tries to morph our memory of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” into something more dark and sinister than the original movie.

This mindset does not become clear until the second track, “Candy Man.” With a strange combination of percussion and upright bass, the track begins on an ominous tone that is only heightened by terrifying vocals that seem to hint at something along the lines of pedophilia. The band follows this dark approach toward the recreation of the film with “Pure Imagination.” Focusing on a new combination of heavy percussion and bass mixed with strange, offset guitar riffs, “Pure Imagination” is sure to creep any listener out.

In “I Want It Now,” Primus attempts a sound they have never previously tried, and convey it with great success. The microphone is handed over to LaLonde, who makes no attempt at singing throughout the entire track. Starting off in a calm spoken voice, “I Want It Now” follows LaLonde, whose intensity progressively increases throughout the track until he is virtually shouting. With distant guitar riffs and the pounding of the band’s rhythm section, “I Want It Now” is a sound that is not only unique for Primus but unique to music in general.

In “Cheer Up Charlie,” Claypool goes for an entirely new vocal approach and attempts to actually sing. With quiet music behind Claypool’s whiny voice, “Cheer Up Charlie” creates a horrific sound that is utterly perfect for the album. The screechy whining of Claypool ironically fits the most upbeat song of the album, while still adding the proper amount of creepiness.

Primus breezes through the rest of the album. The four Oompa Loompa songs are right up the band’s alley and they perform them perfectly. The songs give the band a chance to showcase its musical talent as it attempts to replicate and morph the original soundtrack to create a different sound to the original. The vocals for these tracks are both ominous and on point.

If one track stands out above all the others, it would be “Golden Ticket.” The traditionally upbeat song will be completely changed in the listeners mind after hearing Primus’ adaption. Riddled with deafening percussion and bass, this track proves to be the loudest and strongest on the album. Claypool proves his talent as he experiments with vocals, which range from bellowing lows to a quiet falsetto.

Overall, “Primus & The Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble” was well worth the wait. Primus is known for its covers of other artists work, having released two cover EP’s as well as a full-length take on Pink Floyd’s “Animals.

The band’s newest album is the greatest artistic risk Primus has taken, and it is a wild success.

Jack Nichols can be reached at [email protected]

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