By Chris Pacifico
When most people think of Primus, Les Claypool is the first thing that comes to mind. Sure, he's included in the Great 4 of the all time greatest bassists alongside Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius and John Entwistle (Sorry, Flea - no vacancy) and he is Primus's central personality, but the most obvious reason why folks think in such a way is because they're all aware of the gazillion other side projects/collaborations in which he's taken part over the past decade during all of the band's many hiatuses. The one thing about Primus though is that it is and always has been a three-pronged effort. Along with Claypool's extraordinary bass abilities and kooky lyrics, Primus has also consisted of Larry Lalonde's swirling licks of razor sharp guitar vigor, which he mostly rocks on a PRS with a whammy pedal, and of reverb in the vicinity, and Tim "Herb" Alexander's scantly popping hi-hats and other amazing percussion infusions, rendering him as possibly the only drummer who can keep a rhythmic pace to Claypool's always zig-zagging bass. These three men are the vital ingredients of this band, and if they were one man short than they would cease to be Primus. These San Fran boys were also a band that remained wholly original, innovative, and a cut above the rest during the grunge/alt-rock boom of the early '90s and proved refreshing to many sets of ears, so it seems proper that now they get the retrospective they deserve in the form of They Can't All Be Zingers.
The disc starts out with numbers like "To Defy the Laws of Tradition" and the zany "Too Many Puppies" from their thrashy 1990 debut Frizzle Fry, an album that Primus played in its entirety during most of encore sets on their 2004 Summer Tour. What would a look back on Primus be without the bubbly "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver," the doom metal riffing on "Those Damned Blue-Collared Tweakers" and the tongue-twisting "Tommy the Cat" - all the best cuts from their most highly touted studio release Sailing the Seas of Cheese, an album that was probably the first time when critics began to utter the phrase "funk metal." 1993's guitar-driven Pork Soda was a bit more of a darker effort, including tales of murder ("My Name is Mud"), Claypool's penchant to play on the upright bass with a bow ("Mr. Krinkle") and the perils of waiting at the department of motor vehicles ("DMV").
Ditties from 1995's Tales from the Punchbowl, which was probably Primus's deepest excursion into psychedelic terrain, are included as well, like the hillbilly hoedown and innuendo-laden "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver," the space-rock "Over the Electric Grapevine" and the big trippy bang that is "Southbound Pachyderm."
The late '90s releases Brown Album and Antipop were ho-hum at best and probably the main factors that led to Claypool devoting more time to his other projects, but it would be a shame to see them totally unrepresented on here so their best numbers, "Over the Falls," "Shake Hands With Beef," and the Tom Waits collaboration "Coattails of a Deadman," are given due props. While all of Primus's catalogue can't be "zingers," each one of these sixteen tracks is. But the next time a Primus retrospective is put together, it would be wise to include "Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats" as the icing on the cake.
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