Friday, March 27, 2009

March 27: Primus, "Frizzle Fry"

Artist: Primus
Album: Frizzle Fry
Year: 1990
Label: Caroline

Most people have difficultly discussing the "musical void" that occurred between the death of "hair metal" and the rise of grunge. The truth is, this time period is represented by some of the most artistically original albums that the world has ever heard. Countless combination and sounds were being tried, all hoping to be the "next big thing." During this time, few labels were more important than Caroline Records. Releasing records from up and coming groups like Smashing Pumpkins, Ben Folds, and White Zombie, the label is truly "where" new music was happening. Among these amazing bands was an odd little trio from California named Primus. Their 1990 debut record, Frizzle Fry, is a brilliant piece of funk-infused rock and remains one of the greatest albums ever.

The opening song of Frizzle Fry says everything one needs to know about Primus, when Les Claypool sings, " defy the laws of tradition, is a crusade only of the brave..." Ignoring anything and everything about music that had been done previously is what Primus does best. From their wildly diverse instrumentation, to the often abstract lyrics, to the unmistakable vocals of Claypool, Primus is a band in their own league...or perhaps more amusingly, in their own world. The deep, driving bass, the breakneck guitar work, and the furious drum work helps to make Frizzle Fry one of the most enjoyably addictive records ever recorded.

While a majority of Primus' songs are based around the peerless basswork of Claypool, the guitar work of Larry "Ler" LaLonde and the brilliant percussion of Tim "Herb" Alexander take the sound from "good" to "amazing." The chemistry between the three musicians is obvious from the opening moments of the record, and the sound they produce is absolutely individual. Primus uses Frizzle Fry to show that they are as much a metal band (Claypool was famously denied a spot when he auditioned for Metallica in the 80's) as they are a funky punk band. The record makes it seem as if they were as much influenced by Frank Zappa as much as they were by Funkadelic or The Stooges. Whether it's a full-tilt rocker like "Groundhog's Day," a meandering beat generation inspired piece as in "Spegetti Western," or just simply one of Primus' trademark "strange" tunes like "Pudding Time," the band is flawless throughout Frizzle Fry.

When Primus gets going, they are able to ride the fine line between chaos and lightning fast musical madness. Primus is playing nothing short of a speed-metal classic on Frizzle Fry's title track, yet the following song, "John The Fisherman" is a funky rock song if there ever was one.Though it has been said many times concerning groups like Black Flag, Primus truly makes music that is as close to riot-inducing as you'll ever hear. Truth be told, at their live shows, these songs coax the crowd into a frenzied, joyous, mosh-fest and the band feeds off of the energy and chaos of the crowd, and vice versa.

With his sarcastic, wacky voice, Les Claypool is certainly one of the most recognizable voices you'll find on record. From nasal singing to spoken word delivery and everything in between, Claypool's vocals are as original as the music over which he sings. One of the main things about Claypool's vocals that make them so amazing is the fact that it is quite clear that he is enjoying them as much as the listener. The style and content are such that, if he wasn't in love with the words, they would fail to work and the song would fall apart.

Lyrically, Frizzle Fry is often as absurd and strange as the music itself. Though the band addresses issues like gun control (years ahead of its time), religion, and the pitfalls of consumer culture, the band is often outright silly with lyrics like those of "Spegetti Western." Whether writing about nursery rhymes, "b" movies, or a host of other oddities, lyrically, Primus are undeniably one of a kind. Easily one of my all-time favorite lyrics is when Claypool quips, "...funny thing about weekends' when you're unemployed...they don't mean quite so much...except you get to hang out with your workin' friends..."

Over the past twenty years, Les Claypool has established himself as one of the worlds' premier bass players, and one of the most unique frontmen of all time. His innovation and originality musically, lyrically, and vocally have earned him the respect and adoration of peers and fans alike. His first band, Primus, remain one of the most important bands in history for their pioneering combination of musical styles and instrumentation. Pushing aside the "most musicians = harder rock" idea that had been set throughout the 1980's, the trio created some of the most powerful rock/metal/punk that has ever been heard. Their 1990 debut, Frizzle Fry remains a masterpiece to this day and is beyond an essential album for every music collection.

Standout tracks: "Too Many Puppies," "Frizzle Fry," and "Pudding Time."

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