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ALBUM REVIEW: "The Desaturating Seven" by Primus

Prawn Song / ATO
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ALBUM REVIEW: Primus – The Desaturating Seven (Prawn Song / ATO) 2017

Last year, when Primus bassist/vocalist Les Claypool collaborated with Sean Lennon on their groovy Monolith of Phobos album (under the moniker The Claypool Lennon Delirium), I really got into both the music and lyrics. One of my favorite albums of 2016!

Lennon’s gifts as a melodic singer and a guy willing to take chances (like his late father), seemed to gel with Claypool’s natural tendency to take things in utterly bizarre directions.

But with just Primus, Claypool’s offerings could be a mixed bag. They’ve never been a band that had a broad appeal, like, say Phish. The bass is the lead instrument and Claypool’s songs can be an acquired taste.

That said, I have found that when I’m in the right mood I really like Primus, particularly the early albums like Sailing the Seas of Cheese and Pork Soda.

And there was something fun about their 2014 Willy Wonka outing Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, where the band – Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and returning drummer Tim Alexander (last heard on 1995’s Tales from the Punchbowl) – took on an imaginative film soundtrack and put their unique, Primus stamp on it, from “Pure Imagination” to “I Want it Now!”

As a child of the 1970’s, Claypool was most definitely influenced by the highly weird pop cultural touchstones of that oddball decade, including an exceedingly vivid children’s book I had totally forgotten about – until hearing their new album The Desaturating Seven, which also includes drummer Alexander this time as well.

The book, clearly a favorite of Claypool’s, is Ul de Rico’s 1978 book The Rainbow Goblins, about seven goblins – each a color of the rainbow, who greedily travel about the land, catch rainbows and ingest and steal the rainbow’s colors, desaturating them, thus the album title – with an accompanying concept album devoted to telling the story of these greedy goblins in a way only Primus can.

So, does it work?

Well, not entirely. Knowing what Primus is capable of, The Desaturating Seven seems a bit thin on interesting musical concepts. Sure, they stay true to the book’s theme of appreciating the beauty and wonder and color of nature, but it feels as though Claypool and his bandmates got excited about the whole Rainbow Goblins idea that the actual musical concept was not fully fleshed out.

With his jokey vocal style intact, Claypool sings on “The Seven,” the introductory song that follows the intro track: “Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet / These are the colors of The Seven / When a rainbow catches their eye / they lure and beguile it / these are The Desaturating Seven.

Now, is there more here? These color gluttons being a metaphor for a growing, global push towards a more gray and colorless world where everyone is like everyone else? Yes, there could be something there. After all, Primus has always been about pushing things a bit further out than their peers. And they have never been about following trends.

Nevertheless, this relatively short record – while staying true to the book – could have been more. But that’s one man’s opinion, of course …

“The Seven” is followed by “The Trek,” “The Scheme,” “The Dream” and “The Storm,” which is a key track, showcases the trio's chops and talents, particularly Claypool who likes to noodle a bit.

But by the time you reach "The Ends?" you feel, I don't know, cheated? With such an interesting and out-there idea for a concept album - particularly with a rock weirdo like Les Claypool at the helm - I was expecting a bit more. Is it "pointless"? Like a trip to the "DMV"? Umm ... 

I guess if you're a Primus fan, well, you will have already picked this one up. But if it was between this album and the actual Ul de Rico children's book classic, I'd pick up the book instead. The vivid colors and illustrations stay with you far longer than any of the songs on The Desaturating Seven.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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