Honestly, I was prepared to not be thrilled by this surround sound mix. I mean, how would the music of -- essentially -- a rock power trio translate in to a compelling immersive listening experience?
Well, somehow Les Claypool and his band of renown funk-rock-a-teers have found the sweet spot for their band and translated this breakthrough (in terms of mainstream popularity) alternative album into a listen that even the most hardened of heady prog-rock aficionados will want to check out.
In this deluxe package, the 96 kHz / 24-bit PCM audio on the Blu-ray Disc delivers a much bigger sonic punch than the newly remixed stereo accompanying CD. Now you can really hear the majesty of Les Claypool's thundering Bootsy-meets-Tony Levin inspired bass and Larry Lalonde's Fripp-flavored guitar work. What you really get the sense of when listening to this album is the notion of a band fully connected to one another, from the manic poly rhythms of Tim Alexander's drums on up.
Really, these guys were like an indie rock answer to the 1980s era King Crimson by way of Frank Zappa and P-Funk. Its really apparent throughout the disc.
A cool feature which takes advantage of the Blu-ray Disc's advanced programming capabilities is the "visualizer" that gives you an array of semi random images generated on the fly (seemingly) and playing along with the music. Some of the images may have been repurposed from the band's music videos (such as the race cars in "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver") but whatever the case, they work fantastically with the music, underscoring the fun within these funky post math-rock jams.
The sound on this 96/24 surround mix -- done by Les Claypool himself -- is pretty killer and it shines in when you turn up the volume a bit. Claypool's bass bombs slap and tap, percolate and resonate, many times in remarkable synergy with the complex drum fills. And this all happens all around you (sweet spot listening highly recommended) with cool guitars and effects and such immersing you deep in the music.
The CD has some cool bonus tracks including live takes of "Those Damned Blue-Collar" Tweekers" (what a great song title!) and "American Life" as well as a remix of "Here Come The Bastards."
Its a pretty badass collection and now I'm only sad that I didn't get a chance to see them back in the day.
Oh, and this set finally explains why they called the album Sailing the Seas of Cheese.
From the liner notes we learn: "Mainstream rock was pretty cheesy," recalls Primus singer/bassist Les Claypool. "That's why we named the record Sailing the Seas of Cheese. We were the second release on Interscope Records, the first release being Gerardo. We were supposed to be the yin or the yang to that opposing factor. So from our perspective, all of a sudden we were going to be marketed right alongside all the other cheese. We were going to either sink or swim. Sailing the Seas of Cheese."
Not a very cheesy reason at all. In fact, they have gained even more of my respect knowing that they pulled off this sort of in joke in the face of all that sort of corporate machination.
If you like your funk a bit punky and your indie alt-rock a tad proggy, you should check out Primus. Some amazing players and tunes that grow on you with each listen (and I mean that in the best possible way).
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written: www.dialthemusical.com.