After 20 years of separation, original Primus members Les Claypool, Larry Lalonde and Tim Alexander found themselves working together again. The result is not the bombastic, experimental rock album most expected.
Instead, streaming on the New York Times’ website is “Primus & The Chocolate Factory,” slated for an Oct. 21 official release. The album is simply a Primus envisioning of the original soundtrack to the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” fueled by a hatred for the 2005 Tim Burton remake.
Paying homage to both the original film and to the gloomy undertones of Roald Dahl’s writing, Primus ditches their bass-heavy rock formula for an offbeat, psychedelic interpretation of a childhood-favorite story.
As an interpretation of the “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” soundtrack, the album is quite wonderful. Claypool’s maniacal tone trumps Johnny Depp’s 2005 Willy performance on all levels. The album also plays wonderfully into the dark undertones Claypool hoped to exploit. With that said, the album has little replay value otherwise.
Despite being great musicians, Primus practically ditched their instruments in an attempt to capture the psychedelic sound of the 1970s.
Simply put, the album must be appreciated for what it is, and not much else. It is a wonderful interpretation, but it is not a rock album, although at times, it will draw comparisons to Pink Floyd for listeners.
Despite being somewhat underwhelming, there are instances of momentary excellence. Closing track “Farewell Wonkites” feels as if it is the droning ending the original film deserved.
“Pure Imagination” is a one-track microcosm of the entire album’s mission, serving as a cynical, eccentric, psychedelic picture that evokes reminders of Gene Wilder’s sick, twisted mannerisms in the 1971 film.
“Candy Man” is constructed in a similar fashion, perhaps even more frighteningly so.
While the album may be an exploration of the all-too-weird for some, it cannot be considered an artistic failure. The goals expressed by Primus were to trump the message of the 2005 film adaptation by Tim Burton and to bring forward the dark undertones of the original story.
“Primus & The Chocolate Factory” does just that, and may make you feel all too strange to consider “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” in the same whimsical light of your childhood ever again. The listening experience is less of a reminder of candy, Oompa Loompas, and golden tickets, rather a reminder of scary glass elevator rides and Gene Wilder face contortions.