|Les Claypool's Frog Brigade - Live Frogs: Set 2|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 07 August 2001|
There is an urban legend that claims, after the crushing death of Metallica’s founding bassist Cliff Burton, that James Hetfield, Kirk Hammet and Lars Ulrich interviewed Les Claypool for duties on the bass. Upon arriving at the rehearsal, Claypool plugged in his rig and exclaimed, "Anybody wanna jam some Isley Brothers tunes?" The audition didn’t go too well and Metallica hired an unknown player in Jason Newsted. Their loss. Claypool is a wacko who applies a funked-out, silly sensibility to the music of the art rock band, Primus. His approach is beyond unique in a music market where boy bands are manufactured to have all of the right sights and sounds to chemically addict a listener. To have found creative and even commercial success with an act like Primus is a testament to Claypool's creative power.
An out-of-the-box thinker like Claypool isn’t going to be easily satisfied musically -- hence his involvement with his side project, the Frog Brigade. Much like insisting as part of the contract that there will be only green M&Ms in the dressing room, side projects are truly a bitchin' rock star thing to do. Side projects make off-the-hook musical ideas a reality, even if they don’t have the commercial viability that a record company demands for a major studio releases from a big-time act. So when the idea of covering the entire Pink Floyd Animals album was proposed, Les and the Brigade were able to actually make it into a reality.
The studio version of Animals is an amazing performance and recording that refers back to a time when performers produced complete albums with creative themes more like a feature film or a good novel than records built around singles specifically designed for a Spike Jonze video. Les and the Frog Brigade take on covering one of rock's greatest recorded performances the way a great orchestra would prepare for Mahler’s Eighth.
Animals ranges from delicate, detailed passages to driving grooves. Amazingly, the Frog Brigade nail the performance. I mean, they get it all. As the lead guitarist for a far from virtuoso cover band, I have to say that I am blown away buy the accuracy and detail this band was able to recreate, yet they still infuse the performance with their own flavor in ways that make it fresh. Claypool’s bass sounds loose and funky compared to, say, Roger Waters, but at times the tones Claypool creates are create are extremely close to the music heard on the original album. Les' voice has a distinctively nasal sound that is original, to say the least. The vocal parts of Animals are within his range, and he seems comfortable with the performance throughout.
You likely know the musical ins and outs of Animals. If you don’t, get yourself over to Amazon and order it. Les and the Frog Brigade crank it out, driving the entire performance, but really go off for the fourth track, "Dogs." The intensity of the performance, with its fantastic bass line, is awesome. The Brigade improvise a bit in the more freeform sections of this tune, but tend to resist the urge to do so earlier in the record. They bring it home doing the acoustic closer "Pigs On The Wing Pt. 2" with true authority.
For anyone who loves Pink Floyd and wants a new look at a tremendous rock compilation through the comedic prospective of a modern-day musical mastermind, pick up a copy of the Les and Frog Brigade doing Animals. The performance is tight, the music is great and, no matter what, you have to give them credit for going with a completely out-there idea and making it reality.