Of Whales And Woe review by Les Claypool

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  • Released: May 30, 2006
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.3 Neat
  • Users' score: 9.6 (16 votes)
Les Claypool: Of Whales And Woe

Sound — 7
I'm going to start by saying that I love Les Claypool. This review may seem harsh, but the fact is that I just am disappointed by his work on this CD. You'd be much better off buying a Frog Brigade or Primus disc. The sound of this album is simply bland. It lacks the creativity and catchiness you'd expect from him. The basslines are awesome, but they all sound relatively similar, and are reminiscent of Sausage due to that they are very busy. That is actually part of the problem. While the basslines are intense and very well made, they only occasionally get into a nice groove; they are more liable to feel tense. The guitar lines are basically nonexistent, they're thrown very far into the background and basically used as noise-creating devices to make the basslines sound cooler. The drumming is borderline annoying because of the extensive high-hat usage. Basically, the whole CD (save a few songs) feels like he's got no good new ideas and is falling back on bad ones. Mind you, there are some great songs on this CD. One Better is a very groove-filled (I really don't want to say "groovy") number that is just amazing, Filipino Ray is reminiscent of some tunes off of the Frog Brigade's Purple Onion, Nothin' Ventured feels like a b-side from Animals Should Not Try to Act like People, the instrumental Off-White Guilt, and there's the ever-lovable Robot Chicken theme song. The other songs range from mediocre (Rumble Of The Diesel, to unlistenable. I'm being generous with my grade because the good songs are really really good songs.

Lyrics — 6
Okay, the lyrics really ranged from the song. Back off Turkey, Phantom Patriot, and Iowan Gal are all extremely repetitive. They literally repeat one line over and over again. For Back Off Turkey it's "coming around again," for Phantom Patriot, it's "The Phantom Patriot" in an extremely annoying voice, and for Iowan Gal it's "I Got Me An Iowan Gal." The first time you listen to these, they seem alright, but after a time or two, it's just completely boring. One Better, Rumble Of The Diesel, and Filipino Ray, however, have great lyrics. Les' singing ranges, too. Everything ranges, this doesn't feel like a CD, it feels like a compilation. On some tracks, I love his voice, in others, it feels like he's trying to be as annoying as possible. It's really too bad.

Overall Impression — 6
This album feels like a bunch of B-Sides that weren't good enough to go on other records. It is simply not very good, save about a third-half the songs. The most impressive songs are easily One Better, Nothin' Ventured, Rumble of the Diesel, Robot Chicken, Filipino Ray, and Off-White Guilt. They are really good songs, and I would've prefered it if they had just cut the other songs off the album and kept those. Although, to be fair, the other songs are what make those 6 songs stand out. It's just a mediocre album that is nowhere near representive of Les' genius. I suggest getting Frog Brigade's Set 1 or Purple Onion if you want some Claypool that isn't Primus. If the cd were stolen, I would not buy a new copy, I would simply download the aforementioned good songs. It's really not worth the money people will pay, and I'm wishing I had waited for a review before picking it up. I listen to One Better and Filipino Ray constantly, though, they are genuinely amazing songs.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I also liked the album.I believe it to be a giant step from his other solo cd,Highball with the Devil.The only track I did not really like was Iowan Gal,and by far One Better was the best track.
    I disagree with the previous review. I am also a huge Claypool fan, and I'm also not afraid to say if he does something I don't like. However, I have found Of Whales and Woe to be an incredibly evolved step for Les. First of all, anybody that follows Les closely will recognize him as one of the few musicians that has always been so experimental. Primus itself was a deviation from anything remotely mainstream, just as all of Les' work has been since then, including this album. Considering that this is essentially Les' first solo album, upon listening, one might even wonder if a the structure of a formal band has been holding his creativity back. Now, to the music... here are, for me, some of the highlights: "Back Off Turkey", the leadoff track, is somewhat reminiscent of "Purple Onion". The song actually features Les' two children (6 and 10 years old, on the marimba and percussion). The song has a hypnotizing, entrancing quality to it. It is followed by: "One Better", which touts an upbeat, addictive melody, with a sound that walks all over itself, is regarded somewhat as the single off this album, as Relix magazine featured it on their sample CD before Of Whales and Woe was released. This song could be easily appreciated even by those who aren't Claypool fans. "Lust Stings" has a heavy feel to it, almost feels like the music is tromping through...mud? Les' vocals, as they often do, function more as an instrument. Skerik laces his dancing sax work throughout the song. This has proven so far to be a concert favorite. "The Phantom Patriot" is a departure from Les' usual style of songwriting. The precision seen in the instrumentation is a massive reference to Primus days. The vocals are hammering, and overall, this is one of those songs that will unconsciously get your head bobbing. "Iowan Gal", this song absolutely blew me away. The instrumentation consists only of Les on his bass banjo, and minor percussion. The bass banjo has a very unique sound that you don't hear often, and of course, Les managed to put together a disturbingly complex melody for this song with it. The lyrics are somewhat repetitive, but the fact that he can sing at all while playing this perfectly is unreal. "Rumble of the Diesel" contains lyrics that revolve around fishing. I don't know if it's the fact that Les loves to fish so much, but I would say that every song he has ever released that is about fishing seems immensely inspired. This song has a perpetual drive to it that is absurdly captivating. "Filipino Ray" contains a repeated bass line that slides around like a wet bar of soap. It also is one of the songs in which Gabby La La's sitar has a large presence, which I personally am not a fan of, however, it doesn't detract from the song too much. "Of Whales and Woe", "Vernon the Company Man", "Nothin' Ventured", and "Off White Guilt" have been omitted from this list because I have yet to listen to them enough to make a fair description of them. The Robot Chicken theme needs no explanation. This album was well worth my money, and if you are a true Claypool fan, chances are you'll fall in love with it like I have. Give it a chance. And see Claypool when he comes around your town, because "Rumble of the Diesel" and "One Better" are certain to be incredible songs to see live. (I saw them at Bonnaroo, and trust me, they are sick).
    i really liked this album, i downloaded then proceded to buy it so i could listen to it in my car. whacked out genius. gotta love the lyrics to lust strings