Primus is, hands down, one of the most unique, inventive, and quirky bands I have ever encountered. I am sure I missing some other weird acts, but I can think of nary one at the moment that can match the odd abilities that this trio display. They defy the laws of the traditional genre, not clearly fitting into any particular one. They have progressive, funk, jazz, punk, rock, and other genre flairs all mixed together into this sonic brew that is tantalizing, infectious, and impossible to ignore.
By the time I encountered them they had already released their debut, Frizzle Fry, a live EP, Suck on This, Live!, and I am pretty sure their breakthrough, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, was on store shelves. The first song I heard was "Tommy the Cat," featuring Tom Waits as the voice of the title character. It was on the first rate soundtrack to Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (a most excellent soundtrack to accompany a totally non-heinous movie). It was a weird song that didn't sound like anything I had heard before.
This experience was very early on in my musical adventures; I admit that I was a late bloomer in this regard and had, and still have, a lot of ground to cover. I was also in my "I want to play a guitar" phase, which failed miserably. During this period I had a friend who played bass (and I hope she still does, she was pretty good) who was a Primus fan. She lent me a well-worn tape of Frizzle Fry. From that moment forward there was no turning back — I could be counted among the Primus faithful.
They Can't All Be Zingers is a "best of" collection covering all of their major releases, but skips over things like Suck on This, Miscellaneous Debris, and Rhinoplasty, which contain covers and such that are well worth tracking down for your collection, particularly Debris with its excellent cover of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar." Back to the CD at hand — it is 16 tracks collected together allowing you to follow the progress the band made over the years.
As I take a tour through Primus of years past I cannot help but wonder how they were ever signed to a major label in the first place, much less lasted long enough to generate enough songs for a greatest hits compilation. This has nothing to do with me not liking them — I adore them and what they brought to music. It is just that Les Claypool and his compatriots are just plain weird. They do not follow trends, they march to the beat of a different drummer. They take a different perspective on things like melody, rhythm, song structure, and they stretch the boundaries of music as art. They are not a pop commodity, yet they found a niche in the market where they have thrived, giving them a place to ply their practice.