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Wait a minute. Primus? I LIKE A PRIMUS RECORD? I feel faint...

Music Review: Primus – They Can’t All Be Zingers

They Can’t All Be Zingers, a greatest hits release from the band Primus, confuses the hell out of me. Aren’t they the same band that I would occasionally see release a weird-ass video on MTV? A video that would be so completely loony that it would cause me to listen to the song just long enough to chuckle in bemused horror at the fact that “someone” thought that was music?

Judging by the “unique” choice to make their packaging for this CD emulate a package of cheese “singles” — up to and including the fact that when you peel away the wrapper you are left with images of cheese. No info or song titles on the exterior, just cheesy goodness — it most definitely is the same band.

How is it possible, then, that I find myself liking so many songs on this album?

“To Defy the Laws of Tradition” kicks things off with a nice slow and sedate bass line that, at around the fifty-two second mark, breaks into this schizophrenic groove that rides along one of the funkier bass riffs I’ve heard, well, ever. It's a perfectly titled song, as it defied my expectations on the traditional song format.

“John the Fisherman,” aside from making me giggle at its lyrics, has a bass-driven groove that instantly made me fall in love with the song. It’s as if the guitar and bass were riding a funk flavored teeter-totter — and it makes me want to go fishing, even though I hate fishing!

“Too Many Puppies” may be close to the stupidest song ever, and I love it. How did Les Claypool learn to play a bass like he does, really? If he isn’t one of the most innovative and talented bass players ever, I’ll eat my hat! “Too many puppies are getting shot in the dark…” Yeah, this song is weird and wonderful.

“Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” sounds like a moonshine-addled demolition derby anthem. Wait, that’s what it is supposed to be? Sweet! Great song. Now, if only I could figure out how to hum the bass line correctly!

“Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweakers” is one of the few songs on this release that leaves me cold. I don’t know why, though. It’s got a decent groove going in its favor, not to mention the weirdest lyrics this side of the Mississippi River — but I still find myself forwarding past it.

“Tommy The Cat” might be the reason I hit the forward on “Tweakers,” though. It’s fast, frenetic, and sounds like a song that might have heavy rotation on Tom Wait’s stereo when he’s supremely drunk as a skunk. I love it.

“My Name is Mud” is the one Primus song that I could have talked about before ever listening to this cd. One of the few straight-forward songs they’ve ever done, Primus actually achieved tolerable air-play with this track. That’s how I came to first hear it. It’s clunky as hell, and has an epileptic sounding bass-slap groove to it. It is just a classic song, much less a classic Primus song.

“Mr. Krinkle” is weird. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stand-up bass groove that gets the song going. Maybe it is the lyrics? Whatever it is, I love it all at the same time that it leaves me scratching my head and wondering what the hell is going on in the song. Maybe I’m better off not knowing?

“DMV” sounds exactly like what I’d imagine Claypool would be humming to himself as he was forced to wait for hours in line at the DMV. Even though it isn’t the best thing on this cd, I’ll admit that I love the little epileptic slap-groove of the bass on it.

“Over the Electric Grapevine” sounds like Primus and Filter had a funky lovechild, and then turned it loose to make music after spiking its Kool-aid with a healthy dose of acid. Usually I forward over it, but when I find myself supremely tired and in the right state of mind, I’ll slap some headphones on and crank it to eleven.

“Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” is the song most guilty for making me giggle to myself while listening to this album. What an amazingly fun and wickedly funny song. If every band has at least one great song in them, well, this isn’t Primus’, but it is damn close. I love this song, truly I do.

“Southbound Pachyderm” sounds like a sister-track to “Electric Grapevine.” It’s slow and weird and definitely not my favorite song on this album. Actually, I think it is the one I listen to the least.

“Over The Falls” begins with a nice rollicking groove, and then fails to capture my attention.. Other than listening to the very nice bass playing, this is a song that I generally pass over.

“Shake Hands With Beef” is a nice return to the chunk-groove bass line. If I had to describe it, it would be that the bass guitar sounds like it is flatulent, and it keeps pooting out this weird and wicked groove. This is just a great, great song.

“Coattails Of A Dead Man” sounds like a song that would play at the Devil’s Circus. It’s fabulous, and I can easily close my eyes and see demons pirouette to it in the dark of its sparse groove. Great song.

“Mary The Ice Cube” begins with a nice interplay between soft guitar and bass licks, all on top of a drum beat. Blessed with some quirky lyrics, the song finds this delicious groove and proceeds to sit in it and refuse to come out. If Primus reunited in 2003 to do nothing else but cut this one song, I thank them. It may be my favorite song on this album.

All in all, Primus is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but this album condenses their weirdness into a very palatable format. It may just be the perfect introduction to the band and get them tons of new listeners that otherwise would have just turned and walked away, previously.

It hooked me, which is why I now find myself heartily recommending this album to one and all!

About Michael Jones

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