Primus at Club Nokia – Photo by Ciera Leisenfelder
THEY’RE BACK!! After eleven years since their last studio release, legendary bassist Les Claypool has returned with his crown jewel Primus, releasing the much-anticipated Green Naugahyde. He is joined by Larry Lalonde and Jay Lane, both of whom come from the band’s old days (Lalonde has been in Primus ever since, while Lane was only briefly in the group), and the three have culminated their talents in a most impressive way.
This album features (what else?) the phenomenal bass playing of Les Claypool, the steady yet sporadic beats of Lane, and the weird, otherworldly strums of Lalonde. For this recording, they seem to be lightly playing with funk and jazz elements on a level previously unreached. There are also a lot of effects on this album (think of Antipop but not entirely in a bad way), both on guitar and bass. This doesn’t exactly take away from the album, but after such a long time since their last release, some fans were probably hoping for a more raw, original Primus feel. However, make no mistake, there are some songs on this album that sound like B-sides from Frizzle Fry and Sailing the Seas of Cheese.
The album opens with “Prelude To A Crawl,” a slow instrumental that one can tell Claypool composed with a joint smoldering in his nearby ashtray. Heavily distorted, it sounds like an airplane flying overhead, tangled up in the slow twanging of Lalonde. A decent opener, though it might be too short for some. Who knows what this little piece could’ve become with more attention given to it?
The next song, “Hennepin Crawler,” reminds us all why we’re glad that Primus is back. The bass solo in this song is incredible, and that’s not even mentioning the rest of the song. Claypool’s random strumming and funky blasts makes this song a sure candidate for Primus classics.
“Last Salmon Man” is yet another Primus song focused on fishermen (don’t ask what the obsession is, because this author has no idea). It’s a song reminiscent of Frizzle Fry if one were to add the tone of Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People. Of course, the song will just break out into random parts that sound eerily like country with elements of rock/funk/Primus. Still, a good song. Listen for Lalonde’s solo!
“Eternal Consumption Engine” is one of the standout songs of the album. It’s easily one of their more upbeat songs (musically speaking), though the lyrical message is loud and clear and scornful. Hearing Claypool wail, “Everything’s made in China!” will make listeners laugh and think at the same time, which is probably the most successful way to get his message through.
“Tragedy’s A’ Comin'” is a song that will probably wind up being the single for the album. Its just got that vibe to it. The wavering, almost wormhole-like strumming is a great opener, especially when the crunchy bass just bursts in like some thunderous brute. There are lots of effects in this song, for better or for worse.
The next song, “Eyes of the Squirrel,” is one of those Primus songs that was made for drugs. Permeated with sounds, effects, distortion, and everything else that can electronically rape a song is present here. His playing/plucking is ridiculously fast in this song, almost to the point where you cease to notice it, simply because it’s so rhythmically perfect.
“Jilly’s On Smack” is another song straight out of Frizzle Fry, though it has the dark tone of Pork Soda. Another standout song for Lalonde, whose guitar in this song is way too depressing for its own good. It’s like someone recorded the abysmal sadness that only deep reaches of outer space can feel.
“Lee Van Cleef” is another fantastic track. This upbeat, crackpot piece reminds one of “Pilcher’s Squad,” off of the Animals EP. It’s another random, odd Primus song that proves their still on top of their game. Claypool’s vocals are once again so bizarre that one doesn’t know what to say. This is easily one of this author’s personal favorites of the album.
“Moron TV” is complete with dreamy guitar, jolted with sudden plucks and slaps courtesy of Claypool. His vocals in this song are downright creepy, and coated with spite. This, combined with the overall feel and message of the track, make this song another one of the better ones on this release.
The next track, “Green Ranger,” features some cello work that Claypool is also noted for (remember “Mr. Krinkle?”). While this track isn’t the worst thing ever, it’s certainly not the best track on this release, and serves more as a filler in between “Moron TV” and “Hoinfodaman.”
“Hoinfodaman” is another Primus track that brings a smile to every listener’s face. Claypool’s wildly erratic sense of humor, coupled with his flair for eccentricity, makes for a good song every time.
“Extinction Burst” is a fast song that is sure not to disappoint. The quirky guitar in this song goes great with the jolts of bass that violently spew into the song. The drums go really well with this song. Of course, halfway through the song, Claypool bursts into this high-pitched singing that sounds almost woman-like. Great song.
The last track, “Salmon Men,” is another short piece where Claypool plays weird carnie music and chants the title words and laughs in deep voices. There’s really no point to this track, but if you really listen to the absurdity of it, it’s pretty funny.
After an 11-year wait from a band with such high standards attached to it, one might think that the album might not live up to expectations. Truly, if this were any other band, it would probably happen. However, Primus has shown that they, once again, are the kings of…well…odd, trippy, funky, eclectic, bizarre, entertaining music. Claypool’s playing is as brilliant as ever, and he shows new tricks (as he always does). Lalonde also shines, his guitar being some sort of perfect love-child to Claypool’s bass. Also, the recording quality is fantastic.
However, there are some faults, though they are few. Jay Lane is a pointless addition to the band. He seems to be hidden behind the dynamic duo of Claypool and Lalonde; Lane doesn’t try to break out and make himself known on the recording. For all anyone knows, this album was recorded with a drum machine. His drumming isn’t bad (very precise), but it just doesn’t seem to fill the creative bubble that has always engulfed Primus. The only other complaint with the album is the (over?) use of effects on the side of Claypool. Lalonde has always used guitar effects, but for Claypool this is a more recent thing (at least when they are featured so prominently). Some may complain and compare to Antipop.
Still, this is a great album: of this you can be certain. Eleven years is a dilly of a time to wait, and it has been well worth the wait. Filled with the usual arsenal of technical tricks and odd sense of humor, Primus has returned to remind us that they are still alive and kicking and doing, well—whatever it is that they do.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Claypool + Lalonde = auditory goodness, great recording quality, accumulation of everything picked up over the years squeezed into a tasty, Primus-flavored drink. It doesn’t sound like one thing they’ve done—it sounds like everything they’ve done, and that’s the beauty of the album.
Cons: Tim Alexander was missed on this album, and there are too many effects on Claypool’s bass. Nothing else to complain about!
Album Review by Jeremy Bigelow
Primus are playing the Wiltern on Oct. 22 and the show is SOLD OUT!