If you stop Primus’s lead vocalist and bassist Les Claypool after a gig and tell him that Primus rocks, the usual gag is that he’ll say “no, we suck.” This isn’t because Les has no self-esteem, it’s because he’s that kind of person. Primus is a hard band to describe. It’s got a very surreal feel to it. For this reason, the joke actually makes sense–it’s not the kind of music that the average rock fan would understand. And that’s why I enjoy them. So for this edition of Jason’s Jukebox, I’m ranking all of Primus’s albums so far.
The current line-up is
- Les Claypool: bass, vocals
- Larry LaLonde: lead guitar, keyboards, banjo, sythesizer
- Bryan “Brain” Mantia: drums (originally Tim Alexander)
Frizzle Fry **1/2 (1989)
Singles: “John the Fisherman”, “Too Many Puppies”
This was a decent start, but many of the songs lack the polish that would come later. It’s a good effort for what it is.
Best Tracks: “To Defy the Laws of Tradition”, “John the Fisherman”
Sailing the Seas of Cheese **** (1991)
Single: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”
1991 was the year alternative rock really exploded. We had great albums from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and U2. Primus falls into this too. The sophomore album was and still is one of their best, and gave us one of their most signature songs, “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.”
Best Tracks: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”, “Sgt. Baker”, “Is It Luck”, “Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers”
Pork Soda ***** (1993)
Singles: “My Name Is Mud”, “Mr. Krinkle”
This is my favorite Primus album. I fell it’s their most definitive and the best example of how Les Claypool’s surreal humor makes them as great as they are. The video for “Mr. Krinkle” is still one of my favorite music videos. Surprisingly, it was all done in one take.
Best tracks: “My Name Is Mud”, “Welcome to this World”, “Mr. Krinkle”, “Hamburger Train”
Tales From the Punchbowl (1995) ***
Punchbowl gave us the third signature song, “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”. This was their second-highest seller, right behind Pork Soda. It was also the last album to go gold. To me, it’s just average. It feels like Les and his boys are just coasting by and not trying anything different. I didn’t hate it, but it just wasn’t as great as Pork Soda or Sailing on the Seas of Cheese.
Best tracks: “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”, “Southbound Pachyderm”, “Hellbound 17 1/2”
Brown Album (1997) **
Singles: “Shake Hands With Beef”, “Puddin Taine”
This was the first album for new drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia, who replaced Tim Alexander. I think this one is Ok at best. I like that the name “Brown Album” was actually official, as most of the time when an album is given a color for its name, that’s done by the fans. It’s just an example of Les’s unique sense of humor.
Best Tracks: “Fisticuffs”, “Puddin Taine”
Rhinoplasty (1999) ***
This is mostly Primus’s cover album. Just something thrown together while we waited for Antipop. Not a bad idea, as I love their version of Metallica’s “The Thing That Should Not Be.” The CD had a bonus video that you could access with a computer for their cover of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels.
Best Tracks: “Silly Putty”, “The Thing That Should Not Be”
Antipop * (1999)
I have to agree with Les Claypool. I didn’t much care for this one. Next.
Green Naugahyde *** (2011)
It took a whole eleven years for Primus to find their groove and make another good album after Antipop. This was definitely an improvement, but it felt more like what they were when they recorded Frizzle Fry than anything else.
Best Tracks: “Eternal Consumption Engine”, “The Eyes of the Squirrel”
Primus and the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble ****(2014)
Now this was something I never thought I’d hear! Primus covering the entire Willy Wonka soundtrack? Well, if there’s any band that would be a good pick, I think they’d be the one. They just have the right amount of cool surrealism to make it work. I can imagine putting this one and muting the actual songs to see if it would work. Although, I’m not sure I’d replace the soundtrack with this every time I watched.
And here’s how I rank each album:
- Pork Soda
- Sailing on the Seas of Cheese
- Primus and the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble
- Green Naugahyde
- Tales From The Punchbowl
- Frizzle Fry
- Brown Album
Next up in March: The Who!