A Bad Place Full Of Bad Jerks

The Underappreciated Genius of Les Claypool

I’m a dinosaur who, until the past three years or so, continued to purchase CDs and add them to my rather large collection. However since that time I’ve pared down and digitized my music, being rather selective. I mean, I’m not the same person I was in my teens and twenties so I don’t need everything I used to listen to. In addition to the obvious bands and albums I’ve carried over (I’m looking at you Pink Floyd), I made sure to add each and every iteration of Les Claypool to my iPod. Starting with Primus and going all the way through The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Les Claypool has woven an intricate and ever-changing path through music. I don’t feel he gets the props he truly deserves.

Claypool first came to the national spotlight with his band Primus. Starting with their first album, Suck on This, Primus established itself as a completely unique and original band, reflecting Claypool’s musical influences and aspects of his personality. Their next four albums, Frizzle Fry, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Miscellaneous Debris, and Pork Soda all did quite well and established Claypool and Primus as a singularly uncommon band in a time dominated by hair metal first, and early grunge shortly thereafter. Debris was an album of covers, including a cover of Pink Floyd’s Have a Cigar, which would demonstrate Claypool’s love of Floyd for the first time, but certainly not the last. Of the first four albums, Seas was, in my opinion, the most popular. However, Pork Soda was released to critical acclaim.

Primus followed these albums up with six more, but Les Claypool didn’t restrict himself to just one band. On the contrary, Claypool played in the bands Holy Mackeral, Oysterhead, the Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains (commonly referred to as C Squared B Cubed), Les Claypool’s Fancy Band, and most recently The Claypool Lennon Delirium, with Sean Lennon. Each iteration of his bands brought something new and unique to the musical landscape. Oysterhead was a collaboration of Les, Trey Anastasio (of Phish), and Stewart Copeland (of The Police). The Frog Brigade was the band that really allowed Claypool to swim in the jam band waters, and they even released an entire live cover album of Pink Floyd’s Animals. The Fancy Band included the eclectic musician Gabby La La. Claypool’s most recent work with Sean Lennon in the Claypool Lennon Delirium is just the latest foray into what Steve Jobs would say is something we didn’t know we wanted or needed until it was presented to us.

Most commonly compared to Frank Zappa, Claypool is so much more than that. The music he makes, whether it’s with Primus, solo, or a collaboration with others, is wholly his own. I can’t recommend his music highly enough. There is literally something there for everyone. If you like funk, it’s there. If you like metal, there are elements of it in his early work. If you like experimental or jam music, you’re in luck. You can find anything you like, and I implore you to jump in the water and splash around for a while.

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