Career-spanning collection for
Primus - They Can't All Be Zingers
Review by Tony BonyataIn a recent interview I conducted with Primus fountainhead Les Claypool, the singer/bassist explained his reasons to reform the original trio for a one-off performance last August at Hegdpeth festival in Twin Lakes, WI. "Primus is like this big, hibernating bear that pokes its head out every now and again," Claypool laughed. "There's got to be a big tempting hunk of salmon to get the bear to poke its head out, and I think that's what happened." Apparently that 'taste' of 'salmon,' or big wad of dough, as the case may be, wasn't big enough, however, as Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander have reunited for a full-blown U.S. tour in support of a long overdue career-spanning retrospective, entitled They Can't All Be Zingers.
While the title finds the band with their collective tongues firmly planted in cheek (humor, or more appropriately twisted humor, being a big part of their appeal), what this collection showcases is an album brimming with 'zingers.' For many 'cheeseheads,' which in this case describes Primus fans and not Wisconsin natives, Primus has included many of the obvious choices, such as the thrash metal/funk fusion of "John The Fisherman," "Too Many Puppies" and "To Defy The Laws Of Tradition" (all from their 1990 Frizzle Fry debut), "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" (from 1991's Sailing the Sea of Cheese), "My Name Is Mud," "Mr. Krinkle" (from 1993's Pork Soda) and "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" ( from 1995's Tales from the Punchbowl).
Claypool, a vocal liberal, has incorporated an undercurrent of politics into his music and his inclusion of "Too Many Puppies," a song about the conflict in the Middle East with the term 'puppies' referring to 'soldiers,' becomes even more poignant sixteen years after it was originally written.
Humor and politics aside, the musicianship is what makes this collection so impressive. The tight dynamics of Claypool's percussive bass playing, Alexander's thundering drums and LeLonde's manic, often deranged guitar attack have rarely been bettered by any metal act in history. Not that these guys should be pigeon-holed as metal, as they also inject strains of funk, punk and even latter-day prog rock (the latter as witnessed on "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver," which sounds as if was resurrected from the outtakes of the early '80s Robert Fripp / Adrian Belew incarnation of King Crimson).
Adding both a welcome guest appearance, along with a bit of continuity to these songs collected throughout a thirteen year span, Tom Waits delivers the back-alley, scat-tongued voice of Tommy the Cat to the song of the same name, while he also introduces a creepy mellotron and adds a booming, rum-soaked chantey-like chorus on "Coattails of a Dead Man," inducing a slightly queasy bout of sea sickness.
Although They All Can't Be Zingers, as well as the majority of Primus material, ultimately has a dark overtone to it, the band's muscular musicianship and often humorous, sometimes goofy view of the world, definitely makes for one zinger of an album.
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