My very first experience with BUCKETHEAD was 1999’s MONSTERS AND ROBOTS which to this day still remains his best selling album. This is for good reason. For all his eclecticness and productivity, the sounds he creates on this 5th album are by far some of the most accessible and most dynamic in balancing all the elements he has become known for. All the funk, metal, jazz, DJ turntables and electronica come together in perfect harmony on this one. This is BUCKETHEAD’s defining moment and the fact that all these sounds work so well together is because of his avant-garde style being smoothed out with the efforts of Les Claypool from Primus who helps out constructing many of the tracks, plays bass and even contributes vocals on “The Ballad Of BUCKETHEAD.”
Also on board here is Bootsy Collins (Parliament, George Clinton, James Brown, Praxis etc) lending some vocals on four tracks, Bryan Kei Mantia (Godflesh, Praxis, Primus etc) on drums, SF Bay Area DJ Disk on turntables as well as rap vocals by Ovi-Wey, Max Robertson and The Chicken Scratch Choir. The results of this menagerie of talents is what makes this amongst the most golden of finds in the Easter egg hunt in vastness of BUCKETHEAD’s discography.
The album begins with the energetic electronica meets heavy metal “Jump Man” (3:38) with Bootsy Collins declaring he can’t ever stop workin’ hard. This is beautiful aggressive metal riffage that has an electronica drum backing and some seriously flavorful guitar solos. In the middle it changes into a serious funky bass line with electronic embellishments and then back to the main metal riffage. This is an awesome track where every element is perfectly balanced and a deliciously discerning glimpse into the album’s brilliance in general.
Track two “Stick Pit” (4:28) starts with a jittery guitar solo and a steady pummeling bass line designed to simultaneously soothe the soul and unravel the nerves. It changes into a hard metal riffage with cool electronic effects that dance with the jittery guitar solo. This one is all instrumental and conjures up the image of cruising the streets of a town filled with chickens like its their day before meeting their maker at the slaughterhouse.
Track three “The Ballad Of Buckethead” (3:38) is a Les Claypool showcase with a funkier than slunk bass line that actually clucks like a chicken and is the only track where Les lends his vocal duties explaining the origin of the chicken lover. This has an accompanying video and is a very surreal and needless to say bizarre experience all the while keeping one in that feel good funk mode that classic 70s funk bands like Parliament and Funkadelic were so adept at evoking.
“Sow Thistle” (4:28) is one of the strangest on the album. It has Bootsy Collins narrating the quandaries of living in the universe and the perplexing properties of time, life and humankind’s irrational fears that are leading to our demise. Musically this has a rather avant-garde DJ beat that is 4/4 in timing but has bizarre electronic embellishments, scorching avant-garde solos and a very strange breakdown at the end that creates a musical instability that leaves the listener scrambling for some order that has totally broken down.
“Revenge Of The Double Man” (3:34) starts with a nice grungy guitar riff, funky bass and drums and has a subdued vocal arrangement. Riffs alternate and change it up. Nice drumming and creative use of turntables and electronic effects. Melodic and powerful.
“Night Of The Slunk” (5:43) is a nice echo guitar riff that is melodic and has a nice electronic drum beat backing it up. It alternates with a heavy guitar riff chorus. It has a jangly guitar riff bridge. Extremely well done in every way. Also contains one of the best solos that pops in when least expected but is the crescendo of the subtleties.
“Who Me?” (2:08) is a short but sweet unaccompanied acoustic guitar track that has BH playing a melodic riff and then strikes a dissonant note with a vocal reactions. Repeats a few times with variations.
“Jowls” (4:25) is quite an oddball. It starts out with a crazed voice shouting “Save Me The Slunk” and then turns into a weird metal riffage that has squealing guitar solos, funky bass sections and avant-garde soloing that all melds together so well. The funky bass has an interesting slight dissonance with the guitars. Another gem that grew on me. At the end we get to hear which parts of a freshly slaughtered carcass are consumed!
“The Shape vs Buckethead” (5:40) is yet another oddball. Starts off with a lowered vocal saying “Did i hear you say is life worth living?” plus more dialogue then a scream and then just-inhaled-helium vocals by Bootsy Collins which continue the narration. A nice funky beat and avant-garde guitar squeals continue the horror story that alternates all the introductory vocal styles, dialogue and instrumental prowess. Very weird! Very cool! The mantra? “I’m not afraid to die, i just don’t wanna be there when it happens!” Cool guitar solos, production and electronic embellishments.
“Stun Operator” (4:13) begins with an impressive drum roll then a string of simple guitar chords. The funky bass kicks into high gear and then some background muffled voices and avant-garde guitar arpeggios. Weird! Spooky! Cool! Showcases Les Claypool’s magnificent bass skills.
“Scapula” (4:04) is an electro funky metal track that alternates between a steady psytrance beat that alternates with a metal riff and some supplemental mood inducing noises, guitar slides, vocalizations and even an unexpected solo that take you into the stratosphere.
“Nun Chuka Kata (4:28). The finale is an indo-raga meets metal feeling groovy track that starts off with a guitar riff that has the most pleasant distortion and a nice simply drum beat. As it progresses there is a jittery guitar riff and nice turntables, electronic effects. The track ratchets up the tension and concludes with a one of the most brilliant uses of lead guitar to end its majesty which at the very end finds it ending its reign with a pleasant trancy sounding drone.
MONSTERS AND ROBOTS is one of my absolute favorite BUCKETHEAD albums. Granted this took me a while to fully comprehend its magnificence but was easily accessible upon first listen. Perhaps it won’t be an instant hit for everyone but it has stayed with me for over ten years and i can pop this on anytime and still feel as excited about it as i did in the beginning. This is probably the most accessible of his higher energy creations and i would totally recommend this to any BUCKETHEAD newbies as the perfect jumping off point to explore the chicken lover’s musical universe for in my opinion it just doesn’t get any better than this one (at least from what i’ve heard so far!) The creativity is turned up to 11 and the production is absolutely flawless in how all the different sounds fit together. Brilliant! If you only check out 1 (one) album in BUCKETHEAD’s massive discography, make it this 1 (one) !