Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Funk Metal
In the Nineties, this Northern California trio were alternative rock's odd band out, aggro-funk punks with freak roots: the scathing chuckles of Frank Zappa, Rush's tech-metal fluency and the improvising verve of the Grateful Dead. That lineage is present and blooming on Primus' first full-length album in more than a decade, along with the machine- gun pop of Les Claypool's bass guitar. The writing is more a series of creepy pranks than a set of tunes, but Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane are a tight knottyrhythm team, and their propulsion under the comic vocals in "Tragedy's a'Comin' " and in the manic marching jam "Last Salmon Man" is no monkey business.
With that rare combination of virtuosity and humor, Primus have always been able to push the envelope creatively without ever falling victim to the kind of navel-gazing that can plague more prog-oriented bands, making them turn inward until there’s nothing left but theory. On its seventh studio album, Green Naugahyde, the band continues this tradition with a collection of songs that are both technically dazzling and perfectly irreverent. In a lot of ways, the album feels like Primus are getting back to basics, with songs like “Hennepin Crawler” immediately evoking the directness of Frizzle Fry.
There’s a sick and twisted joy that comes in reviewing any Primus album, either in print or on bar-stool, which is rooted in the sub-classificatory nodules of the pre-frontal cortex. Depending on your familiarity level with the band, you may or may not know that every Primus album has a—never strict, but always recurring—sub-genre. These sub-genres are often masked by the intensity of the band’s personality, which we will all too hastily dub “Sinister Silly.” But the unique sub-personalities of each effort are not unlike strata in the seven-layer burrito on which Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver enjoys feasting.
PRIMUS play Massey Hall October 5. See listing. Rating: NNNN Unless you're among that odd demographic of intense lifelong Primus fans, you probably greeted news of their first album in 12 years with a shrug. Sure, all the 90s grunge bands are touring again, and fuzzed-out lo-fi slacker rock is popular again, but Primus's brand of dork-funk-prog-metal seems like something we should have grown out of long ago.
Lane, Ler, and Les — the current incarnation of Primus — left us salivating over the course of a lengthy US tour, pushing 2011’s Green Naugahyde with tremendous force as recompense for a 12-year absence. (In hindsight, Antipop wasn’t that goddamned bad, was it?) Tossing in a maximum of four fresh tunes during the summer properly set a new stage in evolution for the funk metal act once smirkingly proud to suck. Demand spread to the LP-hungering masses, and their turn is here.
It’s not like Primus ever really went away. Their music can still be heard on television all the time, since they did the theme song to South Park. But Green Naugahyde is the band’s first proper album since 1999. The ‘90s saw Primus go from unknown Bay Area underground band to alternative rock headliner to a burnt-out shell of itself.