Primus & The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble review by Primus

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  • Released: Oct 21, 2014
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.1 (24 votes)
Primus: Primus & The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble

Sound — 8
Primus formed in 1984, though the world at large didn't really hear anything from them until the release of their debut album in 1990. At first they were treated like a quirky type of sideshow band, but the skilled musicians involved, led by the bass genius of Les Claypool, brought them more recognition. The band experienced a lot of success in the '90s, though it wrapped up with the band going on hiatus in 2000, which lasted 3 years and with the band reforming to release albums very sporadically. The band's last full-length album, "Green Naugahyde," was released in 2011 and showed that the band is still on top of their game. Les Claypool decided at some point to take his fascination with the classic '70s era "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" in order to create his own take on a soundtrack for the movie. The result is a surreal adventure - and I highly recommend playing it along with the movie. The album has 14 tracks and clocks in at just over 40 minutes. There are several songs less than 2 minutes in length, and one track that is actually just 4 seconds. As a promotion for the album, Primus has been selling chocolate bars at their shows named after previous songs in the band's catalog.  

The album opens up with "Hello Wonkites," which is a two minute instrumental track, which borrows the melody from "Pure Imagination" and plays it on a cello - there is almost a touch of the type of ambient reverb-heavy shenanigans that reminds me of the "Dead Man" soundtrack by Neil Young. "Candy Man" is up next, which has a tribal beat mixed with some pure psychedelia and whale-song cello grooviness and Les singing "Candy Man" with his own dose of weirdness. "Cheer Up Charlie" would almost have a melancholy melody except for the quirky additions to the song which make it seem a little more schizophrenic. "Golden Ticket" starts out with a really sad vibe, but it quickly gets almost carnival-esque. "Lermaninoff" is just a few seconds long - you can draw your own conclusions on that one. "Pure Imagination" comes across like Sonic Youth's "Bull in the Heather" mixed with the original "Pure Imagination" playing in the background of a drug-fueled nightmare... but in a good way. "Oompa Augustus" is the first visit by the Oompas, and is much like the songs sung by the Oompas on the movie, but a much stronger vein of creepiness. "Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride" is a new song to accompany the manic boat ride from the movie, just with a higher concentration of creepiness. "Oompa Violet" is next, and the Oompa's songs are very similar musically, with the Oompas singing about the children. "I Want It Now" is Veruca Salt's opus on entitlement, which has a whole different feel with an almost Indian or Asian flavor to the music and sung by Les. "Oompa Veruca" is the song where the Oompas come to take Veruca away, and they sing about her flawed nature, and has much of the Indian/Asian vibes in Veruca's song "I Want It Now." "Wonkmobile" comes across like the raving of a lunatic, humming and singing to himself, with the accompaniment of mostly atonal sounds. "Oompa TV" talks about the dangers of watching too much television. "Farewell Wonkites" starts out with a guitar soloing the melody from "Pure Imagination," but it quickly adds elements and ends the album in the perfect quirky fashion, with some haunted vocals and the music taking a dark turn at the very end.

Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are mostly lifted from the movie, but Les brings a lot of new character to them. His vocal "range" basically goes from sounding like a mouth-breathing hillbilly, to an awkward out of key warble, to a sing-songy falsetto. They are great tools for this type of project and really helped keep me engaged with the album. The Oompas have their own original type of vocals, which adds a whole other layer of darkness to the movie.

Overall Impression — 8
I would honestly give this album a higher rating if it wasn't a re-imagining of a movie soundtrack, because it is musically solid. I stayed entertained and even went back and played it along with parts of the movie - which was a LOT of fun. My favorite tracks would probably be "Cheer Up Charlie," "Pure Imagination" and "I Want It Now"... the Oompa songs were all entertaining in their own right, as well. I would love to hear a completely original new album by the band, but this will definitely tide me over, and give me something interesting to show my friends when they come over.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Love this album! Plus the chocolate colored vinyl is a great addition to my collection. I didn't get one of the golden copies though :[
    Hey Guys from the UG! Where is the UG Store?? It was a great project, i hope you will bring it back!
    Ian Paul Gint
    It was great indeed! But everything that has a beginning, unfortunately has an end. We'll always remember UGS
    good review, but just 1 little problem. in the opening song, the melody was played on an electric upright bass, not a cello.
    The thing is, it's exactly what it was intended to be, which is a tribute to Willy Wonka with Gene Wilder. People can moan about it not being a new album proper all they want.
    Hell yeah, Man!!! Primus can never seem to drop out of the race. Every time they comeback with something more intriguing and fascinating to the ears. Everyone I know is getting this album now.
    It didn't have enough dynamic music, it seemed to stay the same level throughout which made it feel quite boring. If it had more loud, crashing moments and dug deep into the whole theme musically it could have been amazing but it didn't so I think it's only about a 6, 7 at a push
    I can see what you mean. That being said, I saw them play the album in concert and it was way more dynamic and theatrical then the album. If you dig Primus, I would recommend seeing them on this tour.