Primus - albums

Primus - concerts

Primus - interviews

Primus - miscellaneous

Suck on This

Their first album as Primus, Suck on This was recorded live at the Berkeley Square and gives a great sampler of what is to come from them: Les Claypool doesn't sound as weird as he does in the later albums---in fact he sounds almost normal. The mixing isn't as well done either and there's a rawness in here that isn't captured in the later albums. So this is worth getting for that reason alone. Tim Alexander's drumming stands out, as does Claypool's bass and LaLonde's guitar work. Songs from this include John the Fisherman, Groundhog's Day, Pudding Time, Harold of the Rocks, Frizzle Fry (all later released on Frizzle Fry), Tommy the Cat (later released on Sailing the Seas of Cheese), and the Pressman (later released on Pork Soda)---all live!!

Sailing the Seas of Cheese

This is the first Primus album I got. And Primus has since become one of my most favourite groups. This is the album that brought them into the spotlight and the Damn Blue-collar Tweekers remains my favourite Primus tune. The lyrics all have are quite deep and explore different facets of human existence.

"I just can't seem to blend into society.
 I have no hope for this dim simplicity
 of law and order.
 By whose rules I see no rhyme in the reason.
 I hold no hope for this holy treason
 of love and so soft. 
 By whose standards?
 They tell me, they tell me... 
 Who are they? who is they?"
                           --Primus, Eleven

Miscellaneous Debris (EP)

This EP by this esoteric group is amazing. It includes covers of Intruder by Peter Gabriel, Making plans for Nigel by XTC, Sinister Exaggerator by the Residents, Tippi Toes by the Meters, and Have a Cigar by Pink Floyd. All self-indulgent groups. All covers are as good or better than the originals and it's worth getting just for Have a Cigar!

Pork Soda

Claybool and the boys continue with their obsession for food with their most difficult album to date whose title track goes "Grab a can of pork soda and you'll be feeling just fine / Ain't nothing quite like sitting around the house, swilling down them cans of swine." This apparently debuted at #7 on the billboard charts (which is quite good, considering how quirky the album is) and earned them the right to headline Lollapalooza 1993.

Europe '93 (ROIO)

Yet another bootleg that presents Primus at its raw best. Here Larry Lalonde's guitar playing stands out and I think he's one of the more underrated players, shadowed by Claypool's bass and Alexander's drumming, both of which are also in fine form here. Claypool's vocals are also done well. Recorded in Europe (reasonable quality), this consists of tunes like DMV, Groundhog's Day, Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers, Mr. Krinkle, and Herb's Little Drum Solo. I can see why bootlegs have the appeal they do even though they are usually low-quality recordings. They circumvent the entire marketing blitz usually given to an artist's release and avoid slick mixes, thus enabling one to evaluate the artist purely on musical merit alone.

Freak Out (ROIO)

This is clearly a bootleg, but quite a good one. The recording is okay, but it is the content that appeals to me; it is Primus at its mellow best. The first 5 songs are Jerry was a Racecar Driver, John the Fisherman, Groundhog's Day, Nature Boy, and guess what, a medley comprising of Staying Alive (which I couldn't identify) by the Gibb brothers, Don't you Want Me (credited to Callis-Oakley-Wright, and the once well-known song by the Human League), Afternoon Delight by Johnny Carved, Rock 'n' Roll all Night by Kiss, and Biko by Gabriel. You think that's cool? There's more---the songs are all performed by Bob Cock and his Yellow Socks. Recorded in LA, December '93.

The second part is more like the Primus we know, consisting of tunes like Bob, Jerry was a Racecar Driver (again, but harder), Damned Blue-collar Tweekers, Seas of Cheese/Pork Soda medley, Mr. Krinkle, Hamburger Train, and Thieves by Ministry. In short, this is an awesome disc. Check this one out! The recording of the vocals in the second part is a bit diminished, but hey, this is one of the greatest groups around. Recorded in Mountain View, CA, in June '93.

Tales from the Punchbowl

If you think Primus couldn't top the weirdness in Pork Soda, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, and Frizzle Fry, you definitely should check out their latest. Not only is it weird, but it is also hard and experimental. Primus are a breath of fresh air for those who believe their favourite band is selling out by making music more palatable to the masses. In fact, it seems as though their music gets more and more difficult. This is evident right in the first song, Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats, which is one of my favourite songs in the album. Wynona's Big Brown Beaver is the song most reminscent of older Primus stuff and it showcases what they're really great at---catchy ditties, cool guitar riffs, even cooler bass hooks, excellent drumming and quirky and amusing lyrics. Pink Floyd introduced the idea of flying pigs. Primus introduce the idea of flying elephants, complete with engines-laden wings, in Southbound Pachyderm. The tune is catchy and sounds highly reminscent of another one. I can't quite place it now, but this song is another one of my favourites. The Floyd influence is evident conceptually in Mrs. Blaileen and Professor Nutbutter as well, which could be taken right out of The Wall. Space Farm is a pretty descriptive title for this instrumental---it is simply a combination of animal and electronic sounds. Year of the Parrot is a direct attack against all the bands who rehash 70s music and make millions of dollars off of it: "take a Zeppelin riff / and you alter it a bit / you make lots of money / it's called plagiarism." Hellbound 17 is one of my least favourite songs, but it does have some cool noise-work in it. Glass Sandwich isn't too hot either, but Del Davis Tree Farm sounds pretty cool. It's got a catchy riff going all along with some weirdness interspersed. De Anza Jig is a hilarious tune and sung in the country-western Claypool style (and sounds almost like a Nursery Rhyme). On the Tweek Again, clearly shows Claypool's preference for getting high, and the jam at the end sounds like they are. I love the intro to Over the Electric Grapevine. Captain Shiner is a little ditty a la Tippi Toes.

Larry LaLonde, the guitarist, features prominently on this release and this is good since I'm a big fan of his work. Claypool's bass playing complements Tim Alexander's drumming, and, for once, these two greats actually play off of, and with,w each other instead of being in a tussle. This not only allows LaLonde to show off his chops, but also makes the whole album highly melodic. Claypool's vocals are more tempered overall, but there are times when it is harsh and grating. I think it sounds a lot better when you listen to it with headphones. As the ads for the album go: If you didn't like Primus before... you probably won't like them now.

Brown Album

I was a bit apprehensive before I sat down to listen to Brown Album, Primus' latest release. For the first time, Primus were releasing a major effort with a new drummer: Brian "Brain" Mantia (of Praxis and Limbomaniacs fame) replaced former drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander last year. After listening to the album, I can safely say Primus is weirder than ever and Brain's drumming only contributes to the overall weirdness and energy.

While the description Frizzle Fry (Primus' first studio release) meets Highball with the Devil (Les Claypool's solo effort) is not inaccurate, I'd say this release travels further in the direction that Pork Soda and Tales from the Punchbowl were going, getting more self-indulgent (as if that were possible). The album opens with a Sgt. Pepper intro similar to the last release Tales from the Punchbowl, with The Return of Sathington Willoughby. This song is definitely going to be a crowd pleaser, and would be a great opener for a concert.

A few songs, especially in the first half of the album, are just like classic Primus, with heavy and light parts interspersed, the heavy parts kicking in suddenly and aggressively. Fisticuffs, Golden Boy (which is full of funk and fervour), Hats Off, and The Return of Sathington Willoughby should prove to be popular live and even open themselves up for live improvisation. Over the Falls sounds a lot like Running the Gauntlet from Highball with the Devil.

Les is essentially all over this album, from Sathington Willoughby and Fisticuffs to the Chastizing of Renegade and Arnie. As usual, each song is characterised by a single catchy bass line around which the drumming and guitar work revolve. Lyrically, this album is among Primus' finest: Les Claypool's lyrical skills have aged well over time, like fine wine (pardon the cliche). And again, most of the songs weave a story, of boxers, politicians, and school children, peppered with idiosyncratic details about the characters depicted in the songs.

Ler's playing stands out the best in Fisticuffs, Golden Boy, Puddin' Taine, and Kalamazoo. Brain shines most in Over the Falls, Camelback Cinema, Pudding' Taine, The Chastizing of Renegade and Arnie.

The album really hits its stride in the latter half, starting with Puddin' Taine (a song which could've easily fit in Frizzle Fry) followed by novel tunes such as Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread (reggae-Primus), Restin' Bones (one of their most experimental tunes with a very Residential sounding guitar), Coddingtown (indescribable---you have to listen to it just to see how different Primus can be within a single album), Kalamazoo (extremely catchy), and Arnie (also quite experimental). These are some of my favourite songs on the album, and I think the band really comes together as one on these tunes.

I am not sure what the actual packaging looks like, but the promo packaging I got looks like a Hershey candy bar, which I thought was clever.

If you're not a long time Primus fan, this is one of their less accessible albums, even though tunes like Fisticuffs, Over the Falls, Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread, and Kalamazoo are extremely catchy. If you're a long time Primus fan, I definitely recommend giving this album a few listens before you make any judgements. The music here, like with any Primus release, is definitely an acquired taste, but once you do acquire it, you'll wear the album out playing it.


Primus return to their progressive and thrash roots with their latest EP containing six covers, a new version of an old classic, and two live tunes. Continuing on the theme of their previous covers EP, Miscellaneous Debris, the band cover Scissor Man by XTC and The Family and the Fishing Net by Peter Gabriel. The latter cover is one of the better ones on this release.

Silly Putty by Stanley Clarke is a cover that should please many bass fans, especially given the cool record scratching interspersed in the song. This is followed by the rather obscure cover of Amos Moses by Jerry Reed (Hubbard) which isn't all that surprising given Claypool's admiration for that sort of story-telling lyric style. Behind My Camel by the Police is an interesting choice and works as a nice interlude to the Spanish version of Too Many Puppies.

The best cover is The Thing That Should Not Be by Metallica. This is a song which suits Les Claypool's vocals really well and really showcases Primus roots and points toward their greatest strengths---making hard, heavy, music with great guitar solos, and pounding unrelenting bass with a funk.

The production in this release is much better than the Brown Album. Ler's guitar playing shines brightly in this one and should make people realise how underrated he is in the band. As far as the live tunes are concerned, from the Brown Album we have Bob's Party Time Lounge (I myself would've preferred Puddin' Taine) which is decent. The live version of Tommy the Cat + Awakening medley is excellent and that alone is worth the price of this album! Add to that the cool animation of The Devil Went Down to Georgia in the enhanced portion of the album, and you've got yourself a great bargain for the price of an EP!


Up till Pork Soda, Primus had a distinctive music style, which I would've (very greatly simplifying) called "progressive-thrash-funk", but a better description would've been "heavy hometown new wave cold-filtered low-calorie dry". The music was characterised by Les Claypool slapping out catchy riff-after-riff on his bass, punctuated by the staccato drumming of former drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander and the crazy Zappa-ish guitar work of Larry LaLonde.

Tales from the Punchbowl also possessed this quality with songs like Wynona's Big Brown Beaver (though much maligned, I consider it to be a great piece of music if you don't stop at just the lyrics), but to a lesser degree---the first part of the album was classic Primus while the second half saw them experimenting with a new direction. The Brown Album was a remarkable departure from anything Primus had done before, both in terms of the production values (quite muddy, I must say), song writing (more experimental), and music (Les' vocals were intoned for many of the songs---contrast Shake Hands with Beef to Pudding Taine---the latter being the only song reminding me of "classic" Primus on the album).

Then came Rhinoplasty which gave a hint about what Primus would do next, but it was difficult to say for sure from an album of covers. Antipop fulfills that promise, and then some, making it the best effort by Primus since Pork Soda. The album sees a return of Primus to their heavy-progressive-thrash roots, with songs maintaining a feel that is highly reminiscent of Suck on This and Frizzle Fry, albeit traces of all previous efforts and some interesting diversions are also present.

After a brief introduction (which is really the beginning of Coattails of a Dead Man and sounds like a backwards recording), the album starts off with Electric Uncle Sam, a song that reminds me of Frizzle Fry. This is classic Primus. There's the trademark Les Claypool screaming at the beginning, with a backdrop of thrash guitar and bass and some excellent drumming. The album doesn't let up: Other classic Primus tunes in a similar vein include Greet the Sacred Cow which, after its weird intro, turns into an extremely aggressive song with a really cool bass line (interestingly enough, just last week I recently played around with a "toy" Mosque that chants the Islamic prayer at the appropriate times each day and I considered sampling it for a song); Lacquer Head with a chorus that is reminiscent of the ending of Pudding Time; The Antipop which has a strong metal riff foundation and trademark solos by LaLonde; and Ballad of Bodacious, a unique story capable of being told only Primus. Of course, to remind us all of where Primus really originated, The Heckler, the only song from Suck on This that had not yet been re-recorded, is available as a hidden track.

As I say above, the most significant change since Pork Soda has been in Claypool's vocal style. Here, we see more of The Residents-like vocal inflection that so characterises Primus instead of the intonation-style that was ever-present in the Brown Album. Brian Mantia, who replaced Alexander on the skins, is definitely in sync with his band mates on this release. The snare is tight and the drumming is busy, both of which nicely complement the Primus sound. And Larry LaLonde rounds it all off nicely with his whacked-out guitar work. It's also good to see them experimenting with different time signatures again and the most conspicuous time this is done is with the iconoclastic tune Coattails of a Dead Man which features a waltz beat and sounds like something Giant Ant Farm would do. This tune, along with Mama Didn't Raise No Fool and The Final Voyage of The Liquid Sky is Primus at their innovative best. As usual, the superlative lyrics combine clever story telling (Coattails of a Dead Man, Ballad of Bodacious) with anarchistic overtones (Electric Uncle Sam, Power Mad).

The amazing cover art completely captures the spirit of the album. We have a new Antipop claymation, but also present are the claymations from all the previous album covers. Likewise, the album represents a mixture of past efforts, with the earlier works represented more prominently than latter ones. Songs like Natural Joe, Dirty Drowning Man, and Eclectic Electric are more reminiscent of the Brown Album style, though heavier. In particular, the latter tune features some cool riffage at the end. The album is enhanced and refreshed by the likes of Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Matt Stone (South Park), Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit), Stewart Copeland (Police), Jim Martin (Faith No More), James Hetfield (Metallica), and Tom Waits (an apt choice for the tune he plays in and co-produces). Did I mention the production is crisp and crystal clear?

It has been an interesting decade for the band (their first album was released in 1990) and as it ends, I am grateful for the contributions the band has to made to my music foundation (and the world's), shaking it up as well as challenging it. Besides everything I've written above, Antipop marks the return of Primus as a band. And that is an experience you shouldn't miss.

Music ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||