Like Buckethead, Judge Adam Arseneau wears a KFC bucket on his head like a lightning rod to channel the spirits of dead chickens straight through his, err, nubs.
Warning: doll does not fly. Toy is not a toy.
What, you've never heard of Buckethead? The virtuoso thrash metal multi-instrumental guitarist is…is…well, indescribable. Imagine the freakish lovechild of Yngwie Malmsteen and George Clinton stuck in a KFC bucket with copious amounts of methamphetamines and LSD added into the mix, and you'd only be partially there. You'd get even closer if you mixed Les Claypool from Primus with Prince. Never appearing in public without a long black wig, a kabuki mask, and a KFC chicken bucket over his head, Buckethead has been tearing up the alternative and underground music scene for over a decade, collaborating with some of the most talented artists in the industry, even taking over Slash's guitar duties in Guns 'N' Roses from 2000 to 2004. You may have heard of that particular band.
Seeing Buckethead play guitar for the first time is kind of like being in Poland when the Blitzkrieg was on its way—you simply have no idea what is about to hit you. His fretwork doesn't just fly, it actually leaves earth orbit for destinations unknown. His songs are incoherent walls of noise and chaos, inhabiting a realm somewhere between sped-up funk and outright thrash metal, and are often simply vessels for outrageously obnoxious and bewildering guitar solos that stretch on endlessly, with jungle, electronic noise, and fusion rock thrown for good measure. In addition, he is also a something of a musical prodigy, playing most if not all of the instruments on his recordings.
In case you couldn't tell, his musical styling will not appeal to everyone, to say the least. Musicians may wet their pants when they listen to his technical ability, but to the average person, a Buckethead song is often simply incomprehensible, if not downright terrible. Like a car crash between P-funk and speed metal, his musical vision…ah, takes some getting used to, to say the least. His talent on the fret board, however, cannot be denied and considering the gigantic list of artists he has collaborated with over the years—names like Bootsy Collins, Guns 'N Roses, Les Claypool, Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Ben Wa, Iggy Pop, and Mike Patton—his skills are in high demand.
Ostentatious, confusing, and delightfully twisted, Secret Recipe personifies everything in DVD form that the artist Buckethead himself represents. The first DVD available for Buckethead fans, this is a veritable treasure trove of unreleased material, obscure music videos, bizarre graphic design, live bootleg performances, nunchaka combat instructions, and general esoteric weirdness crammed onto two DVDs. Without a doubt, this is one of the oddest and most bizarre DVDs I have ever laid hands on.
Buckethead is like a comic book character come to life, with an elaborate mythology created behind his persona: raised in a chicken coop on a farm, the bucket gives him special powers, he runs an amusement park, etc. It is hardly surprising then that every element of this DVD is absolutely insane, right down to the warning messages that precede the feature that could have been lifted straight out of the old Saturday Night Live sketch for "Happy Fun Ball." But be warned: if complex, nonsensical, and downright annoying DVD navigation schemes give you the rage, you might have some issues with Secret Recipe. This one makes the special edition of Memento seem like a stroll through the park.
"Narrated" by Bootsy Collins oohing and ahhing in his funky draw on each menu option, usually nonsensically, the DVD gives you audio clues in terms of navigation and this is all you are going to get. The navigation (or complete lack thereof) is extremely annoying, but is exactly what somebody like Buckethead would have for a DVD navigation system. The menu comes in the form of a Buckethead action figure, complete with accessories. It makes perfect sense in context, really, and allows for some terribly wicked jokes. By selecting various anatomy parts of the toy, viewers move themselves through the various sections of the DVD, usually completely at random. The jokes, bizarre designs, and absurd music are simply indescribable in text form, so you will have to take my word for it. But one particularly amusing example comes when you try to take the mask off the Buckethead doll; a split second before his identity is revealed, the DVD freaks out and actually sends a command to power down your player and eject the disc. You didn't think he'd give his identity away, did you?
The first disc contains the majority of the content, including unreleased early recordings, poster galleries, music videos from Buckethead, and some of his collaboration projects, including Praxis and DJ Q-Bert, with all manner of deviations and distractions to keep you alternately frustrated and amused. My favorite bit of discovered content is the video for "Animal Behaviour" by Praxis, a fusion/funk/thrash/hip-hop experimental Bill Laswell project from the early 1990s, whose existence I had almost forgotten about entirely, featuring Buckethead in one of his earliest projects.
The presentation is respectable, but varies wildly based on the archival age of the material. His old demo materials obviously sound terrible, but the newer music videos are presented quite well. Really, it's hard to give an accurate technical rating for a DVD that proudly advertises on the packaging a "newly deteriorated transfer for materials buried underground to maintain the lowest possible picture quality." The first DVD features only a stereo presentation, but it kicks butt nicely.
Disc Two contains a full-length performance recorded live in Boston, available both in a stereo and a 5.1 surround presentation, and features decent (but not great) production values. Calling it a "bootleg" performance is probably a fair assessment, which the packaging does. The transfer is grainy, but it sounds full and well-recorded, with clear audio and strong bass performance. As a hidden unadvertised feature, the second disc also contains a second full-length bootleg recorded in New York City that can be accessed through some clever menu finagling. Though there are no other extras on this second disc, one particularly cool and thoughtful unadvertised feature comes in the form of MP3 versions of the Boston concert that you can access when played in a computer and throw right onto your portable music player, your hard drive, or whatever. This is such a head-smacking, "why didn't they think of this before?" idea, I am surprised other music performance DVDs have not utilized this concept.
Combining elements of live concert performance, humor, and an obscure archive of fan material, this DVD is a gift straight from the Chicken Coop for Buckethead fans, but also makes a surprisingly persuasive introduction to the guitarist for newcomers. I showed it to my friend, who had never heard of Buckethead before and, as he watched, his expression ran wild between utter disgust, horrified awe, and complete bemusement before settling on a kind of jaw-dropping disbelief in seeing the KFC-clad maniac attack his guitar with furious fingers. He was impressed, to say the least, and also a bit scared.
Secret Recipe could very well be the strangest music DVD I have ever seen, but you have to love a guy who has walked around all day in a KFC mask for the last 13 years. Goddamn, can that guy shred a guitar up. I mean, he doesn't just play his instrument; he actually murders it right in front of you and makes it scream out for mercy.
It may be one aggravating DVD, but you'll be hooked on the secret recipe. It's like of like cocaine. But on chicken.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
• Music Videos
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