Celebrity bands are usually schmaltzy, self-indulgent wastes of time. One needs only to name drop the likes of Dogstar (Keanu Reeves-worse as an actor or a musician? A question for another article), Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts (what, Russell?), or god awful solo efforts from the likes of Eddie Murphy and Bruce Willis to prove this point beyond a shadow of a doubt. While certainly the timing of the reissue of P's debut CD from 1995 is questionable given Johnny Depp's immense popularity these days, thanks to a certain series of pirate films based on a certain ride at Disney World, P does not fall into that subgenre of pointlessly released capitalization to which the aforementioned bands will forever be relegated.
A lot of the reason for this salvation lies with the involvement of Gibby Haynes, the utterly insane leader of the Butthole Surfers. Anyone who has heard a couple of Butthole Surfers albums will be familiar with Haynes' particular brand of unhinged acid metal blended with hippie folk and spoken word poetry. It's weird, and so is P for the most part. While BHS provide P's most obvious influence, the first track, "I save cigarette butts", equally recalls the lazy jangle of the Grateful Dead or the manic bounce of the Velvet Underground. Track two, however, is all Butthole Surfers. Strange sound effects, distorted guitars and schizophrenic vocals all collide in a tangled knot of noise until the sparse breakdown punctuates the chaos.
Johnny Depp trades on guitar and bass with fellow (although far less famous) actor, Sal Jenco, but it's Gibby front and center on this album. A slightly off kilter folk anthem about and called "Michael Stipe" was the only song to receive much airplay during P's original run in the mid-90's, but there are some noteworthy samplings on the disc. An ironic…I guess…cover of Abba's "Dancing Queen" provides some laughs, although Gibby has a knack for making oddities like this sound a little too credible. He even dusts off his country twang for "Mr. Officer." Even Masters of Reality (the band, not the Sabbath album) isn't too far reaching a comparison on this disc. Did I mention it's weird?
I suppose what ultimately delivers P is the fact that several really legit, not quite avant garde musicians are also involved. Flea makes an appearance, as does Steve Jones, but it's the man in the producer's chair that really shakes things up. Andrew Weiss of Rollins Band and more notably Ween fame is here turning the knobs and he cranks the uncomfortable meter up to 11 with P. Echo effects, as on John Glenn (mega mix) turn a sort of halfway reggae song into a bad acid trip and lyrics like, "Nikita Khrushchev wiped with my penis" all serve to put the whole proceeding a bit on edge.
Basically, if you like the Butthole Surfers, or some of Mike Patton's recent work, P is probably for you. If you just want to throw it on the stereo after watching Pirates of the Caribbean 12, so you can say, "you know, that's Johnny Depp," and smile knowingly, well, you have bigger problems than I can solve with a music review…and good luck to you . Either way, consider medicating.
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