Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe (2009)


Best known as the lead man and bassist of the indescribable band Primus, Les Claypool has done just about everything an artist can do over the last few years. He’s ventured into the solo territory, written a book titled South of the Pumphouse, and directed and starred in his film Electric Apricot: Quest For Festeroo, which is a jam band mockumentary in the vein of This Is Spinal Tap.

Claypool, who has worked with a variety of artists ranging from Phish’s Trey Anastasio to The Police’s Stewart Copeland to guitar soloist Buckethead, returns to the solo arena with Of Fungi and Foe, nearly two years after his first solo release similarly titled Of Whales and Woe.

Claypool is joined on this album by an assortment of musicians including long time Claypool contributor Mike Dillon and lead singer of Gogol Bordello, Eugene H├╝tz. Claypool’s young son Cage Claypool makes a repeat appearance on the album as well.

Of Fungi and Foe is strange to say the least. The album, which Claypool created while recording soundtracks for two projects – one being the Nintendo Wii game Mushroom Men and the other being the feature film Pig Hunt – is far more experimental than the talented bassist’s previous solo effort. Better or not is a whole different question.

For a fan like me, Of Fungi and Foe is more of the strange musical sounds that I love to hear Claypool produce. While getting back into the studio with Primus would be nice and all, this will do. Those who aren’t familiar with Claypool or his musical backgrounds would probably be absolutely confused as to how someone could really enjoy the music, and that’s understandable. This album isn’t for everyone.

The album starts off fairly strong. “Mushroom Men”, as the title would suggest, is in reference to the video game he wrote the soundtrack for, and is a brooding musical assembly. “Red State Girl” is a comedic satire piece portraying the song’s main characters as being from red states as displayed in the Electoral College. Claypool likens the female character as wanting to be like Sarah Palin and the male character as having a naked picture of Sarah Palin.

“Booneville Stomp” is an expanded track of a song Claypool released sometime last year for the film Pig Hunt that he also acts in. It’s a track that easily fits the theme and the feel of a film that has to do with hunting down mutant pigs and has the ever so notable Claypool sound to it.

I found myself enjoying the entire album. Some fans might be tired of this kind of Les Claypool, saying he’s run out of ideas, but I can’t help but like everything the man puts out. He’s one of my favorite figures in the history of music and if what he wants to do his further explore different styles of music I can’t help but support that.

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