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.