Album #22: P – P

  • Released: 1995
  • Origin: Hollywood, California, USA
  • Label: Capitol
  • Best Track: Zing Splash

Something always attracts me to bands and artists with strange and stupid names. The short-lived alternative rock band P certainly didn’t preempt the rise of search engines when they chose their name. They’re an absolute bugger to find music by – in fact I had to search for the name of a track to find this album on Apple Music.

Still, when you look at the members of the band, it’s full of characters who are no strangers to making a weird nuisance of themselves. P was the coming together of oddball Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes and none other than macabre Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, along with fellow actor Sal Jenco and songwriter Bill Carter. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones are also credited on the album, giving the whole project something of an offbeat ‘supergroup’ feel.

Another thing that intrigues me about this record is that it got pretty polarising reviews. On its release, CD Review branded many of the songs “pointless dross”, while Q implied it was “dreadful” in a one-star review. Much more generous reviews have been penned by the Los Angeles Times and AllMusic, however, with the latter calling it “surprisingly enjoyable”.

To me, it sounds a lot like a Butthole Surfers record – the bizarre playfulness you expect of a Haynes-fronted band is certainly there, albeit with songs a little more polished and structured. This perhaps paved the way for the Surfers’ somewhat less avant-garde than usual 1996 album Electriclarryland, featuring the just about radio-friendly single ‘Pepper‘.

That’s not to say it isn’t downright peculiar at times, and mind-warping second track ‘Zing Splash’ is probably the pick of what this album offers. Haynes distorted vocals mimic those of the unsettling Butthole Surfers song ‘22 Going on 23‘, although with a more lighthearted subject matter. Amid the pounding drums and psychedelic effects, you can just about make out him drawing a tenuous link between going for a wazz at a public toilet and receiving oral sex from a film star. Odd, yes, but you wouldn’t expect anything else from him.

Elsewhere, ‘Mr. Officer’ is pretty terrible. No doubt it’s an attempt at ironic humour rather than bigotry, but it still uses homosexuality as a punchline in a way that – even allowing for it being 25 years old now – is neither funny nor clever. We also get a strange cover of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ that just leaves you asking “why?”

The album ends strongly though, with ‘Scrapings From the Ring’ a gentle groove that’s meandering along pleasantly enough before getting swept into a gloriously amplified melee, while ‘The Deal’ could pass as a ballad but for the off-colour lyrics, concluding with “never pinch a sweaty mean cop’s ass”.

I can understand both the good and poor reviews of this album. In one way it’s wide-ranging, musically accomplished and a good piece of surrealist fun. In another, it’s a joke that drags on for nearly an hour only to fall flat on its arse. P comes across as an overly serious attempt at silliness, and for that reason it doesn’t seem as real or cherishable to me as the Surfers’ catalogue.

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