FDF Volume 3 Issue 206 - Oysterhead - The Grand Pecking Order
Album - The Grand Pecking Orders
Artist - Oysterhead
Key Players - Trey Anastasio - guitars, vocals. Les Claypool - bass, vocals. Stewart Copeland - drums/percussion
Produced By - Oysterhead
Release Date - October 2, 2001
What caused me to blow off the dust? - With over 200 of these now done I am surprised at times when I scan my shelf what I have done, and of course what I haven't. Some weeks I am just looking for something to write about..but I actually thought of this one last week for some reason..so I am a week ahead of the game..but what to do next week remains a mystery.
Overview - Originally just formed as a "jam" the band liked what came of it and decided to record. Made up of key members of three "big enough in their own respects" bands the three would form a real true to the word "super group". Each on their own is arguably one of the best at their instrument. Les Claypool made a name for himself as the front man and bassist for the punk/funk/jam infused band Primus. Stewart Copeland was the drummer for the Police, and Trey Anastasio the lead singer and guitarist for seminal jam band Phish. The three would work on tracks in Anastasios barn in Vermont, release the album and do a brief tour. The album would crack the top 50 on the charts, peaking at #41.
FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The album begins with "Little Faces" a slowly building guitar rings out a lone note before the sticcato chops of Copeland start. Claypool gears up the bass, but Anastasio is up quicker. After about 45 seconds the deep punch of Claypools bass comes out. Anastasio sings on this track and the verse is distorted and hushed as it slowly builds. Claypool comes up to sing the chorus, matching Anastasio in style of delivery. Coming out of the chorus Claypool works the bass a little more, but the band seems to be holding back some. It keeps the same formula with Copeland doing some big drum fills but its not until the end where the band feels they can bust out some. Anastasio does a quick solo, but it is so quick you'd hardly notice. The band finds an odd tempo to get "Oz is Ever Floating" started. Claypool and Copeland fire off one another as Copeland works around his kit. Anastasio has the lead vocals again on this but Claypool joins him for harmonies. This has a more "Phish" feel to it. The trademark guitar runs seem a lot more familiar and are the focus, but just as you lock in to that Claypool and Copeland seem to shout with their instruments "don't forget us" and they run an elaborate fill. "Mr. Oysterhead" is the first real time you hear the Claypool bass. It sounds real "wet" as Anastasio loops over the top. Copeland keeps basic time as it starts to feel like Claypool wants to get the bass off the ground. Claypool sings lead on this track with Anastasio adding hints of harmonies. The style is how you'd be used to with Claypool, a more spoken/chanted vocal vs. singing vocal part. After the verse and chorus Anastasio does a quick burst on the guitar. At times it feels frustrating, 3 songs in and nobody has really *exploded* liked you'd hope. The song has a fun sing along chorus and keeps your toe tapping so when Anastasio returns for a solid guitar solo you start to feel like you are going to get what you are after. At that point you realize Copeland has been filling in these odd fills at a break neck pace, all the while keeping the track in time. Claypool brings the watery bass back in before he gets a chance to solo after Anastasio. It then switches to a more slap/pop bass solo with some hard thumping at the end. Three songs in, we hit pay dirt! At the start of "Shadow of a Man" Claypool works some harmonics on the bass accented with some string pop fills. Copeland works on some percussive instruments. When Claypool starts the vocals he is not with any bass or guitar. The bass and guitar come in only after a verse, but in lieu of chorus the band plays loops and short bursts of notes. Copeland give the percussive instruments more of a work out hitting various bells and chimes as the song fades. Swirling guitar starts off "Radon Balloon" and then it gets very focused on guitar with Anastasio playing acoustic. This is the first really laid back track on the record, but Claypool and Copeland still do a lot behind the vocally lead Anastasio tune. We get a little more rocking once more as "Army's on Ecstasy" begins. Claypool has the lead vocals on this and when he has the lead he seems to be more the overall focus. The bass is up in the mix here and Claypool is all over the fret board. The bass grooves are tight, and punchy. Even with Anastasio doing a short solo Copeland pushes everyone forward and Claypool starts to pop on the bass more, before doing some cool bottom heavy runs. It has sort of schizophrenic jam but it worth the listeners time. Copeland gets to open "Rubberneck Lions" as he walks across his kit and Claypool and Anastasio ease in. Claypool takes the lead vocals on this track but does trade verses with Anastasio. The two join to sing the song title a few times (a chorus perhaps?) Anastasio gets to run a solo after the first verse while Claypool holds a tight bass groove. The first, what feels like "jam" takes place as Claypool and Anastasio feed off one another for a bit before they return to the vocals. They get a second run at jams/solos which is fun. Claypool is up and down the bass at the start of "Polka Dot Rose". With long swooping notes, he then comes in with a more punch/driven style. Claypool sings the lead and is a little laid back at the start, with a little distortion on his vocal track. Claypool seems comfortable in the groove he has found and Anastasio will splash some fills from time to time. Acoustic guitar opens a southern twangy style "Birthday Boys". I can't be 100% sure but Claypool might be on acoustic or stand up bass. It sounds a little like a campfire song. It is a nice change of pace for the record. The most challenging song to the listener comes in "Wield the Spade". Claypool finds a strong bass comfort zone, but the lyrics are spoken by Copeland. It seems to lack a strong direction. Claypool comes in singing after the two minute mark, but his style lends little to add to the song, it just remains creepy and as they sing the chorus Copeland does a few fills, but the song really feels like it can't get going. They make up for it quick on the bustling "Pseudo Suicide". A full band run with big guitar chords and drum fills. This is the song you've been waiting for I feel. The band is in full rock mode show casing the tone and sound that made "their sound". The tight drums, the soaring guitar, the funk bass, it is all here. "The Grand Pecking Order" follows and once again the band seems to take an odd direction. Sounding like a marching band tempo and Claypool singing in a quirky (well more quirky than usual) style makes it a very average track. On a high note the band closes the record with "Owner of the World". After a quick burst from Copeland the strong bass work from Claypool comes up. Anastasio is playful on his guitar and come the chorus the tandem with Claypool is nice. It just has a clear, strong sound with each instrument right at that perfect mixed level.
Where are they now? - The band has this lone studio release but did play the Bonaroo Music Festival in 2006. I had the chance to meet Trey once and I actually asked him if he ever hoped/planned to work as Oysterhead again, and he said yes he would. Since the release of this record Phish went on hiatus and came back. Trey released solo albums and toured. The Police re-formed and toured and that kept Copeland busy. Claypool has guested on dozens of records and kept busy with various projects and has also started up a tour with Primus.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I did see the band live on their lone tour. November 10, 2001 at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell Mass. They were very tight as I had expected. All the guys got to show off their chops and were tight and cohesive. It was a stellar evening of music.
FDF Overall Take - Being a fan of all three of the players it is easy to have your expectations set high. When the band hits on it, its top notch. There just seems to overall be more "average" moments. Perhaps the bar is set too high, but as noted the stand out tracks are REAL strong, the others seem like experiments that didn't go as planned. Still, if you are curious the record is not all that bad. The strong moments will all but make up for anything that might be weak.
The band site is here.
You can also read about Les Claypool, Stewart Copeland or Trey Anastasio.
Curious? Check out some MUSIC!
mp3's have been taken down.
Owner of the World
Tracks taken from "The Grand Pecking Order" which you can buy here.
Cool video of the band doing "Oz is Ever Floating" from Conan O'Brien here
A live version of "Owner of the World" from Bonaroo is here
Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.