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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Album Review: Primus - Green Naugahyde

Primus - Green Naugahyde
2011 Prawn Song
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Historically there has been a friendly tug-of-war between the metal and alternative sanctions in staking claim to Les Claypool and Primus. While headbangers boast the one-upsmanship of Claypool's involvement in prog thrashers Blind Illusion, Primus is that rare entity where nobody on this planet gets full dibs on claiming them as their own. Indeed, Primus is Martian music crafted beyond the capacity of us mere Earth folk, and it's not just because their eighth album is titled Green Naugahyde.

The Great Gazoo himself, Claypool, might be this generation's Frank Zappa, but it so happens he plays an unworldly bass, and not even the mighty Steve Harris or funk fiend Flea can push themselves into the same nebula Claypool floats in. While Claypool decrees through snaggleteeth that everything is made in China on Green Naugahyde's "Eternal Consumption Engine," really, in his farflung mind, everything is made in a microprocessing plant on Space Station #5--to which only he and his associates have access.

It's been since 1999 that we've had a Primus slab (and truly if a band deserved the term "slab" applied to their recorded work, this is the one) with the frequently brilliant Antipop. Twelve years of inactivity might prove quite the task for many bands to overcome, yet Primus 2011 sounds like nothing was missed through hiatus. Green Naugahyde is the culmination of Frizzle Fry, Pork Soda and Antipop and for their longtime horde of fans, Primus still sucks, but only as an endearment.

Returning back to the fold is early years (and former Sausage) drummer Jack Lane, in place of Tim Alexander. Fortunately for Claypool's demented purposes, Lane is equal to the task of Alexander on Green Naugahyde, thus you'd really have to know coming into this album there was a switch-up behind the skins. Meanwhile, Larry LaLonde continues to drive alongside Claypool's throbbing hip and in some ways, LaLonde has surpassed himself on Antipop and The Brown Album. No doubt it must've been some sitdown with Claypool in the songwriting sessions for Green Naughahyde, since LaLonde not only casts his fly buzzing and wad-chewed twanging. The man surreptitiously decorates beneath Claypool's inhuman bass-o-phonics. Only LaLonde can smartly detail a luminescent series of sparkling notes and outrageous slides underneath Les Claypool's Transformers-esque bass robotics on "Jilly's On Smack." It's testament to both artists' instincts they gel as effectively as they do even after a lengthy layoff.

"Lee Van Cleef" is hilarious with Claypool's comical plying for the whereabouts of the western film legend, while LaLonde's jerkout tugs are well reminiscent of Primus' huckabilly South Park theme, lending to the jokey ambience. While in the process of nodding to their past, there's no denying "Last Salmon Man" rings true of "Here Come the Bastards" from Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Only difference is Claypool and LaLonde are thrice the musicians they were in 1991, particularly during "Last Salmon Man's" jam-spiced solo section. Jack Lane's slip and shuffle tempo behind them and his gut-checking floor tom echoes elevate "Last Salmon Man" into the here and now.

Lane impresses at every turn on Green Naugahyde and his percussion on "Eternal Consumption Engine" turns Les Claypool into even more of a cheery wackadoodle. Surely, Claypool "really likes it" with his tendency to set the song up like "Mr. Krinkle" but more to a carny flavor. Lane is fantabulous on the funkerific "Tragedy's A-Comin'" and "Green Ranger," where his hi-hat tripping is just as groovy as his White Men Can Funk rhythm. Somehow, you get the feeling a cameo by George Clinton or Bootsy Collins might not've been out of line on either of these songs. Further, we would no doubt be in for one hell of a treat to see Sly and the Family Stone's Larry Graham with Claypool in a bass throwdown for the ages.

Other crazy, cosmic trips you can look forward to on this album are "Moron TV," "Green Ranger" and the bombastic, slithering "HOINFODAMAN," the latter being born straight from the Frizzle Fry and Suck On This era of Primus and will no doubt become a huge crowd pleaser. In its own way, the nutty thrusting (and terrific percussion) beneath "Extinction Burst" comes straight out of the same hiss-popped skillet.

While Sailing the Seas of Cheese is widely considered Primus' calling card album, it's a box of chunky punk cereal in comparison to what this band is capable of now. Green Naugahyde is a complicated album but only in the sense that all three components of Primus demand your attention. One of the most rhythmic albums Primus has recorded outside of Antipop, Green Naugahyde serves you toast smeared with apple butter from its great space toaster where metalheads, altheads, progheads and gearheads can come together in strange harmony.

Mars needs women, since they're well-represented by musicians.

Rating: ****


proginator said... pretty much nail it (although I'm hearing more similarities to the Brown album than their other offerings)..that being said it is Jayski's precise/intricate percussion-work that holds things together particularly when Les and Ler venture off on their patented 'pseudo-psychedelic' side excursions..a worthy successor to 'Herb' this cat can certainly be mentioned in the same sentence as such legendary percussionists as Bruford and Peart..for sure this album is a must-have for anyone who considers themselves a true Primus fan..can't wait to see their live show (which is gettimg mostly rave reviews}..good to know that I'm not the only one who thinks they should be considered as one of the most talented/innovative active bands on the planet right now..

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Hey, proginator, thanks for the in-depth comments. I really dug this album hard and am just fascinated they can lay it down awhile and zip back in fine fashion. I agree with what you say, but I'd add Primus is one of the most fascinating bands on the planet right now. Cheers...