Always following their own path, Primus have been making the musical world a joyously weird place since they made their debut in 1990 with Frizzle Fry. Now, over 20 years and seven albums later, Primus push themselves to new levels of strangeness with their eighth album, Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, an album that finds the band paying tribute to the iconic music of the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. In the hands of Les Claypool and company, the score, originally penned by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, takes on a darker, more ominous tone. This is really saying something, given that the film (like the Roald Dahl book it was adapted from) is about a bunch of wretched children meeting comically grisly ends due to their own tragic flaws, while a manic chocolatier observes with a mixture of contempt and disinterest. In a way, Primus are taking the subtext of the film in which Gene Wilder (to whom the album is dedicated) acted so brilliantly and making it the text, so to speak. By coaxing the sinister undercurrents to the surface, Primus are able to make the instantly recognizable score all their own while still paying homage to the brilliance of the original. Of special note to fans will be the record's personnel, not only featuring drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander on his first Primus record since 1995's Tales from the Punchbowl, but also including a guest appearance by the Fungi Ensemble, made up of Frog Brigade percussionist Mike Dillon and cellist Sam Bass. While having their most celebrated drummer on hand adds an element of stability to what is a pretty far-out concept even for Primus, the addition of Bass and Dillon allows Primus to really push their sound to its creative limits, making Primus & the Chocolate Factory one of the band's oddest, yet most strangely compelling, releases to date.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney