Album Review: Primus – The Desaturating Seven

By Jake Cordiner (@jjjjakethrating 7

Primus are back and, thankfully, as batshit insane as ever. The Desaturating Seven is the band’s 9th studio album, and their second LP in a row based on an existing media property (the first being 2014’s Primus & The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble. No prizes for guessing what that album is based on). This record however is slightly more obscure in it’s concept. The album’s 7 tracks revolve (quite loosely) around a children’s book called The Rainbow Goblins written by Ul De Rico that band leader Les Claypool used to read to his kids when they were younger. The book, specifically it’s striking artwork, left a lasting impression on Claypool and he decided to pitch to the rest of Primus an album that took inspiration from the book, and here we are: The Desaturating Seven.

It’s also worth noting that this is the first full-length of original material featuring Primus’s original line up (Les Claypool, Larry “Ler” LaLonde and Tim “Herb” Alexander) in twenty two fucking years, so excitement for the record within the Primus fanbase is at a fever pitch. And I’m happy to report that, for the most part, their latest project delivers.

The Rainbow Goblins is an absolutely astonishingly perfect fit for the creepy, mindfucking storytelling that runs deep in the roots of Primus’s songwriting. The album kicks off with The Valley, strummed acoustics ease the listener into a false sense of security before Claypool’s alter ego, Christopher P. Bacon, abruptly cuts through the calm. “ONCE THERE WAS A LAND THAT LIVED IN FEAR OF SEVEN GOBLINS. THE GOBLINS FED ON COLOUR” Bacon/Claypool booms, only Primus could make a children’s book sound so eerie. He goes on to explain that the 7 Goblins are searching for rainbows catch in their lassos and eventually feed on (it would appear that The Rainbow Goblins was written by Ul De Rico and co-written by Copious Amounts of Cocaine) and that they’re about to stumble upon a hidden valley that knew not of the goblins, known as THE VALLEY OF THE RAINBOW. Vintage Primus thus far. The Valley is surprisingly subdued instrumentally for the most part, apart from the proggy breakdown near the songs outro. Don’t make the same mistake this writer did and listen to this song in the dark, as Claypool’s vocals will do nothing but terrify you. Moving on…

“RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO, VIOLET, THESE ARE THE COLOURS OF THE SEVEN” screams Claypool, backed by a fucking rocking instrumental. The Seven is the lead single from the album, and it’s easy to see why. It’s Primus letting everyone know the O.Gs are back in business and they’ve not missed a step. LaLonde, Alexander and Claypool sound as good as they ever have on this track. A short blast of the unpredictable, ever-evolving Primus we’ve grown to love over the years.

After being formally introduced to the Seven in track 2, track 3, The Trek, documents the beginnings of their journey to THE VALLEY OF THE RAINBOW. Clocking in at just under 8 minutes long, this track is a rollercoaster. Claypool sings verses in a vocal style which can only be described as Tiny Tim’s Carnival Leader Uncle”, then there’s a cool as fuck breakdown with some almost annoyingly catchy gang vocals, back to Carnival Town, back to breakdown and so on and so forth. It may sound like bashing the structure of the song but that’s not the aim at all. It really does work, and it shouldn’t, and isn’t that what Primus excel at? Taking something that, on paper, sounds dumb as all hell and making it rad as heck? Small side note, Carny Les Claypool shouting “SAVOUR THE FLAVOUR!” is in the top 10 musical moments of the year for.

The Scheme is a nice wee track with a really cool driving drum beat that’s almost impossible to not tap along to. (This may be a reach but through the verses Claypool sounds like he’s aping the vocals from Primus’s 1991 track Tommy the Cat.). The Dream starts off really creepy sounding, with a hideously distorted looped… vocal sample? Honestly cannot tell what it is. Some oddly soothing guitar work from LaLonde as well. Claypool’s vocal line comes in and follows along with the guitar, which works quite well. Apart from that the track kind of doddles along at it’s own pace… until the last minute and a half where everything kind of goes fucking mental. The bass and the drums have a bit of back and forth, then the guitar gets a bit jealous and tries to square go the pair of them. A wonderful bit of chaos.

Penultimate track, The Storm, continues the albums theme of being batshit crazy. There’s a riff in the intro that sounds like a guitar being played by a church organ. Claypool plays a bass line that sounds a bit like a helicopter taking off. The cymbals sounds like literal thunder. It is all kicking off in the VALLEY OF THE RAINBOW. This is one of the best tracks Primus have recorded in decades. The vocals are just the right amount of strange, the lyrics themselves are so… satisfying? It really does sound like Claypool is having a jam with his pals while reading a kids book, which, kind of is the point. But they’ve nailed the whole aesthetic they were going for with the concept of this album. Instrumentally this track fucking RIPS. Not a single note is wasted. Awesome.

The album ends on, fittingly, The Ends? By far the spookiest song on the album, and also the shortest. Claypool sounds like he’s drowning. The drums are almost tribal, the bass comes in and out of the mix like a persistent mosquito you keep swatting away but he’s going fucking nowhere, pal. It’s just a really unnerving track.

That’s actually a good way to sum up the album, “unnerving”. Not in a negative way, quite the contrary. Primus have made their living off being strange and off-kilter, that’s one of the main reasons they’re as popular around the world as they are. With all that being said, The Desaturating Seven is something of an anomaly in Primus’s catalogue of albums, in that it retains the strangeness that makes Primus, Primus but it manages to be rather overtly accessible at the same time. The Desaturating Seven would be a good recommendation as a starting point to someone who wanted to get into Primus, which is a testament to the band and their ability to stay so unique over 3 decades into their careers.

So fear not, dear reader. Primus still fucking suck and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to stop fucking sucking any time soon.

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