Album review: Primus, Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble

The band hits Ruth Eckerd Hall on Wed., Nov. 12, behind their bizarrely fantastic new LP


From the first ominous groaning notes of cello and bass that ooze into set opener “Hello Wonkites,” you know you’re in for a wild ride. The eighth and latest studio album from Primus finds Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde and Tim Alexander re-imagining the soundtrack to 1970’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as joined by the ever-inventive Mike Dillon (marimba, percs) and cellist Sam Bass. The result is gaudily colorful, inherently bizarre in that Primus sort of way, and frequently laugh-out-loud charming and WTF? brain-teasing.

“Candy Man” is bolstered by deep foghorn-honking bass pulses and carried on lurching and roiling percs-and-vibes-fueled rhythms as Claypool’s vocals switch between creepy-deep verse-spouting and operatic belting, while “Pure Imagination” maintains the sinister quality but takes the weirdness factor up notch as it winds into a churning, discordant, fizzy-trippy interlude before segueing into the most easily recognizable cut off the soundtrack, “Oompa Augustus” (“What do you get when you guzzle down sweets? Eating as much as an elephant eats?”). “I Want It Now” proves another stand-out, with LaLonde assuming snotty lead vocal duties while the arrangements take on a spaghetti western-meets-Orient feel.

Primus & the Chocolate Factory
explores the dark and eerie undertones of the original Willy Wonka soundtrack, cycling them through the Primus imagination and spitting out an everlasting gobstopper of an homage that is far more menacing, twisted and dissonant than the original but still manages to retain its recognizable essence. (ATO Records)

Critics’ Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Primus brings the Chocolate Factory to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater this Wed., Nov. 12, 8 p.m.; tickets are $38-$120. More info at rutheckerdhall.com.

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