Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13: Oysterhead, "Pseudo Suicide"

Artist: Oysterhead
Song: "Pseudo Suicide"
Album: The Grand Pecking Order
Year: 2001

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Though it has become used to the point where the true meaning of the term has almost been lost, when one thinks of the phrase "supergroup," a handful of past bands come to mind.  While one can argue that certain bands would rise to such a title, it is most fitting to use the phrase when a group of musicians who have previously established themselves come together for a joint effort.  However, in almost every such case, due to egos and the difference in musical styles, the resulting project is a rather disjointed affair with each of the members taking the spotlight on certain songs.  With this in mind, the number of "real" super-group efforts that have occurred over the history of music can be counted on a single hand, and it is hard to argue against the amazing results found within the short-lived collaboration known as Oysterhead.  Bringing together Phish's Trey Anastasio and Primus' Les Claypool with the seemingly unlikely third party of Police drummer Stewart Copeland, the trio's 2001 release, The Grand Pecking Order, stands as one of the most impressive albums ever recorded under any circumstances.  The way in which the three are able to perfectly balance both their unique sounds and egos results in a truly exciting musical effort that has a massively wide appeal.  Though each track on the able easily withstands countless listenings, there is perhaps no more definitive an Oysterhead song than 2001's, "Pseudo Suicide."

While it may make little sense at first, one can argue that the reason that the entire Grand Pecking Order record is so fantastic is due to the fact that while it certainly has elements from each musicians' former band, only one or two of the tracks would actually "fit" with their other projects.  That is to say, the songs on this record make the group a strong entity onto themselves, and "Pseudo Suicide" is about as "hard rock" as any of these three ever recorded.  As soon as the song begins, one might be tempted to label is as a "jam band" tune, as the guitar loop from Trey Anastasio certainly bears a resemblance to sounds he made frequently with his other band, and yet only a few moments later, the song spins into a wild, raucous affair.  The energy of the trio is beyond infectious, and this spirit explodes over and over through the speakers, yet there is such a controlled beauty to their performances that it is nothing short of awe inspiring.  In many ways, one can see "Pseudo Suicide" as a representation of all three players at the top of their game, and even Anastasio is "allowed" to stretch out and "shred" on his guitar, giving a performance that almost completely re-writes his image as a performer.  His solo later in the song presents the ideal equilibrium between his own style and that of the band, and those familiar with his previous recordings will also find enjoyment in how perfectly balanced he is in terms of the mix, nor overpowering his bandmates in any way.

Putting his own mark on the song, Les Claypool gives a trademark performance on bass, and through his tone, as well as his vocals, "Pseudo Suicide" is given its slightly dark, almost sinister feel.  There is a massive presence that he brings to the track with his bass, and it makes the song seem far larger than other recordings, which helps reinforce the almost looming mood on "Pseudo Suicide."  Showing his uncanny talent for creativity on the bass, as well as making it clear that where he is not playing is as important as where he is, "Pseudo Suicide" boasts one of the most unique grooves in history.  If there ever was a case to prove how bass guitar serves as the backbone of a song, this is it, as one can easily hear how his performance is what drives the song, making it almost jerk back and forth, giving and angry, but somehow mischievous undertone.  It is also the way that he is able to bring out the brilliant performance of Stewart Copeland that makes his playing on "Pseudo Suicide" so fantastic, and the drumming takes a far more forward place in the mix.  Using his entire drum kit and in many ways "schooling" the current generation of drummers, Copeland's performance here is absolutely phenomenal, and it is clear that he matches the talent of the other two, if not surpasses it.  Though many may have seen him as the "odd man out" in this outfit, his playing seamlessly blends into the sound, and it is the way that he is able to twist and turn the tempo on a dime that pushes "Pseudo Suicide" so far beyond the other songs on the album.

Along with the truly monumental musical performances by all three musicians, the unselfish nature of the song is perfectly represented in the shared vocals between Claypool and Anastasio.  Along with the different timbres of their voices, it is the attitude and tone of their singing that gives "Pseudo Suicide" so much depth.  The way that Claypool's deeper, almost maniacal sound clashes with Anastasio's high energy singing is truly extraordinary, and this further highlights just how much diversity the trio were able to blend together into one of the most wonderfully cohesive hard rock songs ever recorded.  The entire Oysterhead project is in many ways a demonstration in listening, as it is abundantly clear throughout the entire album that while each of the three performers are playing at their peak, they are also paying a great amount of attention to where, what, and how their bandmates are interpreting the song.  The ease with which the lead is passed between them is rather similar to a great jazz trio, as one can hear one player pick up right where the last left off, and they never seem to get in one anothers' way at any point.  Furthermore, there is a truly unparalleled level of energy that runs throughout "Pseudo Suicide," and one can almost feel these three trying to push the others to greater musical heights.  The results of this unselfish, unrestrained musical experiment stands as the true definition of "supergroup," and there are few songs from any point in history that are as heavy, yet wildly fun and addictive as one can experience on Oysterhead's 2001 track, "Pseudo Suicide."


Vincent Pye said...

I agree wholeheartedly.. I dont think you can go past Owner of the world or Armys on ecstasy from this album either.. I wish Les would drop this whole duo de twang charade and make another album with trey and stu.... I would even go as far as to say that I would pay for rather than torrent the album.

Vincent Pye said...

I forgot to mention Shadow of a man and Grand pecking order.. oh what a fool ive been