Oysterhead

The Grand Pecking Order

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It would be a difficult task to even find three musicians with voices as uniquely dissimilar as those of Trey Anastasio, Les Claypool, and Stewart Copeland, much less attempt to effectively fuse them together within the same band -- and yet, this is precisely what Oysterhead manages to pull off on their debut album, The Grand Pecking Order. Over the span of 13 tracks, the trio succeeds admirably at finding the common ground between their seemingly disparate styles. Make no mistake, the characteristic trademarks of each member are still firmly in place -- Anastasio's fluid guitar passages, Claypool's monstrous low-end bass tone, and Copeland's deft hi-hat and cymbal work -- but unlike many albums by previous supergroups, The Grand Pecking Order never becomes a joyless, ego-driven wank-fest. Quite the contrary, the musicians seem to be carefully listening and playing off of one another at all times -- and enjoying themselves doing so. This dedication injects electricity into the instrumental interplay and keeps the songs fresh and lively. Copeland in particular appears newly rejuvenated, playing with an inspired abandon unheard from him in years; his energetic drumming practically leaps out of the speakers right from the beginning of the first track onward. Because Anastasio and (especially) Claypool both possess unmistakable singing voices, the songs naturally tend to remind one of their respective bands, Phish and Primus, which on initial listening makes for a strangely unusual combination. Musically, however, Oysterhead rarely sounds like those groups; Anastasio's "Radon Balloon" and Claypool's "Shadow of a Man" are perhaps the only songs on the album that would fit comfortably alongside their previous material. With only two tracks exceeding five minutes in length, the group never loses sight of instilling concise, catchy hooks into their tunes, whether it's the bouncy funk of "Mr. Oysterhead," the circular melodies of "Owner of the World," or the whimsical "Birthday Boys." Ultimately, The Grand Pecking Order provides a great number of satisfying moments and should be of considerable interest to fans of Anastasio, Claypool, and Copeland.

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