One of the many perks this feature holds, is that it forces you to own up to your musical errs and re-educate yourself on some quality (or at least very popular) music. However, realizing what you have and havent heard is quite possibly one of the most difficult things to do. I ended up racking my brain for hours and hours until something finally hit me and its still astonishing to even myself that until a few days ago I had never heard a Primus album. Sure Id heard them before, I mean who hasnt played John the Fisherman on expert, and I even caught them live at Outside Lands two years ago, but that was the extent of it. Honestly, I have no excuse. The majority of my friends adore them and Ive heard tell of the brilliance behind Primus from countless people time and time again. While Ill admit their image and hype was hard to ignore all these years, I suppose sometimes in life it just takes a little kick in the butt to make you to do some things. Case in point: this article.
Now if Ive learned anything about musicianship over the years, its that an individual album is often reflective of the artists shared experiences and overall state of being at said time. Which of course means that even the greatest bands alive have had their fuck-ups and with this being my first real listen to Primus I wanted to avoid all of that nonsense and hear a grade A example of the band at their finest. As I began my search for an album quintessentially Primus, a few friends immediately steered my direction towards the bands debut record Frizzle Fry; which audiences initially found so captivating the band was forced to dub the ironic catch phrase Primus Sucks.
When I finally sat down to listen to Frizzle Fry, I soon discovered that musically it was everything I had ever anticipated to hear from Primus. However, Ill admit that from the beginning I never expected to enjoy it. Then, to my surprise, with each listen I slowly uncovered the unique awesomeness that for so long I had been told this eclectic band possessed. I just didnt expect to find it within the lyrics.
Usually dark music like this, that seeps into your skin with forceful double bass drum pedaling, heavy bass and winding electric guitar riffs, doesnt do it for me. Its usually just too angry or aggressive for me to really enjoy. But somehow, Primus tapped into some uncharted territory (which subsequently made them famous) where they roam aimlessly through a futuristic desert landscape whilst mashing up funk, rock, metal and alternative music into one giant bundle of fun.
As I mentioned earlier, what really sold me on Primus were Claypools off-beat vocals and each songs dark, clever, devious and rather depressing lyrics. While it may seem ignorant to some, I honestly never thought Primus songs, heavily ridden with raucous solos and incessant jamming, could possibly possess strong and intelligent interpretations of important world issues that many of us often choose to ignore in life such as murder, war, crime, hatred, abuse, human degradation, false hope, and human sacrifice. Maybe this was due to Claypools often echoing, megaphone altered vocals or his tendency to blurt things out fast and with distortion so that his lyrics were almost impossible to make out. However, upon deep analysis each song unfolded as a morbid story of lost opportunity, cruel punishment and human error.
From Too Many Puppies to Pudding Time Claypool mercilessly attacks human ignorance, comparing humans to dogs and dwelling on the selfishness of children stating, San Francisco bay the Striped bass are dying/But you’re gonna get that brand new bike/Oh, joy in the later. Another song that sticks out is The Toys Go Winding Down, which focuses on the inevitable process of growing up, facing reality and reaching the point where all hope seems lost. But it was the albums title track that really hit the nail on the head. Here, Claypool reveals his statement of intent, so to speak, as he remarks Hello all you boys and girls/Id like to take you to the inside world/Its quite an irregular place to be/But never fear youre safe with me/Well, maybe before erupting into a list of things he doesnt believe in. Then, when you least expect it, Claypool closes out the song with the light-hearted statement I do believe in Captain Crunch, showing the audience that he still maintains his sense of humor.
With Frizzle Fry, Primus managed to create a pure and selfless critique of human life in which they shed light on human err, while forcing the audience to feel guilt, shame and humiliation for their entire race. Unfortunately however, its true brilliance is hidden beneath the musics heavy, fast paced funk-rock-metal rhythms, which easily distract the listener from learning the band in depth.
Kudos, Primus! Now, Im curious to find out what else you are capable of musically and lyrically.