I’ve owned many “Primus” albums through the years, but if I only kept one, it would easily be “Frizzle Fry”. Even as good as “Sailing The Seas Of Cheese” is, this is better. The drumming is right on, the guitar is excellent, and Les and his bass are in top form. Plus songs like “Too Many Puppies” and “John The Fisherman” are absolutely essential “Primus”. This disc is a must for the newcomer, or the fanatic. Listen to me, I sound like “Mr. Know It All”.
Released on the independent Caroline label in 1990, Frizzle Fry documents the San Francisco Bay area thrash-funk trio at its energetic best. The bare-bones production serves the group’s skeletal sound well and makes the most of nearly live performances of gems such as the antiwar ”Too Many Puppies,” the stoner testimony of ”Spegetti Western,” and the madcap litany of ”Groundhog’s Day.” Larry LaLonde’s guitar is more melodic and concise than the squirrelly avant-gardisms of later albums such as Pork Soda (many of the lines were written by original guitarist Todd Huth). Bassist Les Claypool, meanwhile, is just stunning. By turns sounding like a scrappy Larry Graham or a dirty-minded John Wetton, his four-string slaps, slurs, and squeaks form a perfect union with drummer Tim Alexander’s jazz-informed power beats. Claypool’s goofy vocals owe a lot to P.I.L.-era John Lydon, with lyrics about Corn Chex, striped bass, and porn films. An inspired and assured studio debut. –James Rotondi
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One of the goofiest yet outstanding bands I ever heard on the college radio at NMSU was Primus. I nearly got to see them, but more on that later. Les Claypool’s thundering electric and string bass is complimented with some downright catchy stomping punk-metal riffs by Larry LaLonde, quirky and goofy lyrics, and supporting percussion by Tim Alexander, which didn’t make Primus the Les Claypool Experience.
Just from the title, “To Defy The Laws of Tradition” is a winner, while asking some interesting questions, such as who is worse, someone who murders someone, or someone who decided not to pay the taxman coming to town? A witty lyric that is a howler is why do brides wear virgin white? Most do not deserve that right.” So, what should they wear, sl-t silver or already-slept aquamarine? The song cuts in midsection with some quirky bassing and Les’s vocal mumblings, before going back full force.
Two songs here can be considered classic Primus. One, possibly my favourite Primus song, is the manic grind stomp of “Too Many Puppies,” which I initially considered a triumph of crazy style, especially with that ringing triangle. However, on closer examination, it’s a sober look at the effects militarization has on the youth. One lyric in particular made me shake my head in wonder, as it predicted the Gulf War-this album was released February 1990: “too many puppies are trained not to bark at the sight of blood that must be spilled that we may maintain our oil fields.” Maintain our oil field…gee, didn’t something like this happen, uh, two years ago?
The other is “John The Fisherman” the story of how a boy somehow knew that catching fish was his destiny, feeling “alienated by clique society” and grew up to be an ocean fisherman. Primus would later continue the adventures of John in other songs in at least Sailing the Seas of Cheese and Pork Soda.
For sheer goofiness, how about “Mr. Knowitall,” either some presumptious ivory-tower resident, or fancy poser. But catch that funny lyric at the end: “They call me Mr. Knowitall, I am so eloquent, Perfection is my middle name, and whatever rhymes with eloquent.”
The metaphor of “Groundhog’s Day,” of the groundhog seeing his shadow, plays a part in the weary protagonist, who finally decides to go out and be that “big man in the public eye,” i.e. forget that bad sensation, described as “an ice cold bath” when he discovered “you had to pay to play.” In other words, no six more weeks of winter-spring starts now!
The churning slowed down grunge of the title track, sounding what Metallica would later toy around with on their black album presents some weird visual imagery and some bizarre pairings: “I don’t believe in pinochle…I do believe in Captain Crunch.” So who or what is the Frizzle Fry? Too weird to contemplate, but amusing nevertheless.
The frantic “Pudding Time” shows how money can buy things like sweets or material things, but happiness is something that can’t be bought like the distractions that seem to make us content. Things like fish dying or happiness can’t be replaced: “laughter is a sweet you can’t put a price on. When laughter’s all gone, daddy won’t buy you anymore.”
In early January 1992, before the onset of the new semester, Primus was opening for Rush on their Roll The Bones tour. Because the closest seat was way in the back, I decided not to plunk down the already reduced rate for students. Today, I look back on that and kick myself, because I missed the opportunity to catch two really great bands. Frizzle Fry is a great debut album, but I prefer to go Sailing the Seas of Cheese.
Frizzle Fry is still my favorite Primus album. “To defy the laws of tradition is a crusade only of the brave.” And Les and friends are truly brave. With this recording, Primus invented a sound all their own. Les Claypool’s style is so unconventional and Tim Alexander is one of the most innovative drummers in the business. Together, they created some extremely original grooves. It’s a kind of funk metal hybrid, but primarily, it’s just Primus.
Although Alexander is really the best player here, Claypools originality catapulted him to Bass Icon. I think it was cool to see someone like Less get some credit for doing something unique with the instrument. Most bass icons are technically brilliant, but ultimately musically lacking players like Victor Wooten or Billy Sheehan or whomever.
This is the best Primus recording. The live release, “Suck on This,” is also great, as is “Sailing the Seas of Cheese,” albeit in a completely different way. “Pork Soda” has it’s incredible moments, but I lost interest after that. After Brain Replaced Tim Alexander, the band lost something. Frizzle Fry is Primus at its freshest and most unabashed. It still sounds relevant all these years later.
All I wrote about was the sheer joy of this album. I remember jamming in my basement on Groundhog Day for hours. This is great music. GREAT MUSIC! It’s so innocent. It’s so positive! And so much fun. So, to the early 20’s student type who says these guys are “way overrated”, I have news for you. You are lame. You’re bitter because no one wants to hear John Zorn or Bela Fleck, or Wanko Pastorius. I mean, I’ve seen Victor Wooten waste the time of 3,000 people who wanted only to dance. And Jaco Pastorius was simply a (rhymes with tanker, starts with w) who couldn’t loosen up enough to be half-interesting. This, however, is a band that took polyrhythm, polytonality, mad-chops-of-the-non-Bach-n-Roll-school, and a silly sci-fi sense of humor and made it all cool. Nerds, hippies, jocks, artists, stoners all got into this band. It was wonderful! It was populism on the move! It was the early nineties and things were good. As history writes its little footnote on the early days of this great band, many things will be forgotten. They will be pigeonholed as a cross between Rush and Zappa. No one will remember a delirious crowd shouting “Primus Sucks!”, or the mosh pits that were actually fun and basically safe to be in. Long gone will be the good-natured chuckle of that “Damn blue-collared tweeker” who made us all feel a bit better. But I’ll never forget the great times I’ve had with this raw, wild, pure music. They’re not overrated. Being a sad, hateful snob with no sense of joy or humor is overrated. Anyone who can create fun interesting music for a diverse fan base is doing something very right. Hatin’ on Primus is very wrong. If you see these: [ ], this review has been doctored.
In 1989 a trio of Les Claypool (bass, vocals) Larry LaLonde (guitar) and a drummer named Herb released “Suck on this”, a live album that spawned an underground horde of fans. Not long after came “Frizzle Fry”. Primus is the most original, funk/thrash band to exist. And “Frizzle Fry” is without a doubt, the BEST PRIMUS ALBUM EVER! Most people who hear Primus for the first time can be caught off guard by Les Claypools cartoonish vocals, but when you listen to the album a few times, you will be amazed at how much you’ll love it! The album captures all the slap pop bass and wacky sound that makes Primus different from the regular trendy music of today, and because of this originality, YOU WILL NEVER GET TIRED OF FRIZZLE FRY!