Primus: They Can't All Be Zingers

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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[Published on: 12/7/06]

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Naufragus starstarstarstar Fri 12/8/2006 12:27PM
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I don't know that I'd agree that Claypool is better than Flea, but I'm definitely picking up this album.

theorb419 Fri 12/8/2006 02:10PM
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Claypool MIGHT possibly be in the top thirty bassist of all time, but certainly not in the top four. Flea is nowhere near the top.

The1AndOnlyDJCT Fri 12/8/2006 02:36PM
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Claypool's better than Flea, but he's not top 4.

scooterz Fri 12/8/2006 04:25PM
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i would have put victor wooten instead of claypool in the top four, but ok

jeremyatt starstarstarstar Sat 12/9/2006 10:07AM
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y would they mention flea no offense hes funky but not in the top and what about my man victor wooten ? and stanley clarke or bootsy collins the two guys who practically invented funk bass i mean i know they arent the best (sry bootsy fans) but him and stanley started funk bass and alot of funk altogether

QuantumTuba starstarstarstar Sat 12/9/2006 10:50AM
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I agree with jeremyatt, where's Wooten, Clarke, and Bootsy?! Also, it is possible that Marcus Miller might belong up there, as well as Billy Sheehan. While everyone in your top four doubtless belongs somewhere up there, Jaco is the only one who's inclusion is absolutely essential. Still, good review, and my dispute over a top four is mostly a matter of different taste.

honeypile starstar Sat 12/9/2006 01:14PM
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lists are lame jaco pastorius anyone

MatthewAtienza Sat 12/9/2006 04:32PM
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All of these bass players have their own qualitites that make them unique in their own way. Damn, Wooten is good, Les Claypool is good as well as any other bass player that is in this "top 4". Lets not get our panties in a bunch here over nothing.

theorb419 Sat 12/9/2006 05:40PM
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Billy Sheehan is weak. Terrible tone, worse music, and cliched textbook licks.

SeeBliss starstarstar Sat 12/9/2006 07:40PM
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I agree w/ Matt Atienza. There is no real way or reason to make a "best" list. Everything is different and that is what makes it entertaining and great! I like Claypool for his multi-genre influence, incredible stage prescence, hilariousness and WIDE-open-mindness! Rock on everyone: bassists, musicians, fans!
Probably will not pick this cd up b/c I already own all the albums- well maybe in the future for the "shake hands w/ beef" extended unreleased version. Looking to get the "Blame it on the Fish" DVD, anyone seen it?

Thought Criminal Mon 12/11/2006 01:33AM
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Thought Criminal

I love Les more then most, but a best off album is just week to say the least. If you have ever seen that classic kinds in the hall skech where the dude wants a best off the doors you know what I be talking about.

mrkrinkle6884 starstarstarstarstar Mon 12/11/2006 11:11AM
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BROWN ALBUM is a very good choice in their catalog, Tales being another favorite too I actually prefer the more danceable tunes from Brown Album...........
"Catch me in the right light ,you'll see my shapes shaped to please. And if I shank my trousers down, Im hung just above the knees."

spacedog Tue 12/12/2006 05:12AM
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Dave Holland, too. On the standup, he's real nasty. His new quintet is amazing.

Rebacreates starstar Tue 12/12/2006 02:50PM
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Brain is on some of those tracks as well....

... fuck this top bass player bullshit list. Its about personality in your playing. Its all a matter of preference.

thecurtainhasclosed star Tue 12/12/2006 10:33PM
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chirs, i dont know where the hell you get your "great 4" but thats bullshit. you should definately keep your biased views to yourself. all that aside, this album is great, a nice mix of primus.

surlybuf Wed 12/13/2006 12:47PM
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Yo Freaks! This is a Primus review. The author made an off the cuff remark to grab your attention and explain how important the other players of this band really are. By the way, Nikki Sixx is and will always be the best bassist ever.

See how it works.

yesman328 Wed 12/13/2006 03:00PM
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Ditto bout Wooten. Claypool is tight, but Victa can do shit no one else can. And fuck 'top musicians' lists. you cant possibly make an accurate one. GO PRIMUS.

arr21 starstarstar Wed 12/13/2006 03:17PM
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I dont agree with "Best musician lists" but if you are going to make one about bass players, how dare you leave out James Jamerson!!!

nfenne starstarstarstar Thu 12/14/2006 08:10AM
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Good article. Just one more bass player to throw out there... Larry Graham from Sly & the Family and also Graham Central Station. He's credited for inventing slap bass technique.

If you ask me the four top bass players include Les Claypool & three other guys.

cbliss1: I bought the Blame it on the Fish DVD and I was a little disappointed. There's no surround sound mix and there's not enough live footage of the band. Whenever they show them playing live it's usually cut up with weak psy effects or just plain abbreviated. It's not bad but just not as good as I expected.

I found Five Gallons of Diesel to be better. It's all live footage from Les' side projects un-cut and uninterrupted. The sound sucks on some of the performances and once again no surround sound mix. The C2B3 stuff on there is amazing!

sunnbear starstar Thu 12/14/2006 11:47AM
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Geddy Lee? Berry Oakley? John Paul Jones? Chris Squire? Jack Bruce? Noel Redding? Allen Woody? Dave Schools? Oteil Burbridge? Rob Wasserman?
You can't possibly pick a top 4!

geeray Thu 12/14/2006 12:50PM
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phil lesh, anyone?

okay, lemme tell the story about my pal fistel, on dead tour in spring 95. somehow this guy even found my tent in the campground in west memphis the morning of april 2. he'd never even seen it.

anyhow, i guess fistel had sweet seats at the orlando shows in 95, and he was down on the floor in the phil zone, screaming at phil! "phil! drop the bomb! c'mon phil!"

fistel was a wild dude, so i guess between every song he was just going nuts, shouting and screaming at phil to drop the bomb.

so i guess between songs phil summons a tech over and they talk for a minute. next thing you know, phil is playing, and he looks fistel dead in the eye and kicks a leg out toward him, before TOTALLY dropping this huge bomb from the stage that knocked fistel back into his chair.

bass is the place, baby!

theorb419 Fri 12/15/2006 05:51PM
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Two words: MIKE GORDON!!!

SeeBliss Fri 12/15/2006 06:18PM
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NFENEE: Thanks for the reponse! I do have the 5 gallons and it is badass, esp. the stuff w/ bucket, your right. I also like the bonnaroo frog stuff as well.
As for the "blame it on the fish," I kind of thought it would be something like you explained.
I read about it and wasn't sure about it, I preordered all the other dvd's and have been very pleased w/ the purchases.
If you haven't already, check out the "Live from the Hallucinogenetics Tour"- 2 1/2 hours of straight, uninterrupted madness! A must for any type of fan.
I am full fledged Claypool fanatic, would you think Blame it on the Fish would be worth to add to the collection?

All Loving Liberal White Guy Sat 12/16/2006 12:04PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

flea is greedy

mrkrinkle6884 starstar Sun 12/17/2006 03:58PM
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Flea's acting abilities far exceed his bass playing credibility... for reference see The Chase starring the epitome of mediocrity succeding in life:Charlie Sheen

I dont like fleas..... especially big ones nor do I like Charlie Sheen.

PCPrabbit Mon 12/18/2006 09:38AM
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yeah, i agree. 4 is waaaayyy too few. maybe if the list is edited by how cool your name is...jk. bass is the shit, my roommate (who is female) is almost done at the New School in manhattan studying upright jazz bass, and its just plain awesome to hear her practice, not to mention play with a group. killin!

apgunter13 Tue 12/19/2006 04:45AM
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Antipop and Brown Album Ho-hum? Ummm in Claypool's interview with a disgruntled fan he considered Antipop one of his most technically challenging albums. The bass on this album is sick. Not to mention Tom Morello plays on most tracks. There is also a guest appearence from the guys in Metallica. "Eclectic Electric" is truly an amazing piece of music."Greet the Sacred Cow" is another zinger. Stewart Copeland produced "Dirty Drowning Man" another zinger. "The final Voyage of the Liquid Sky" is pure Floyd meets Primus. Like my ma always said opinions are like buttholes everyone's got one. So don't listen to this guy the Brown Album ("Bob's Party Time Lounge"?) and Antipop are excellent albums.

EVILFUNK starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 10:56AM
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ok...i gotta get in on this one.... Less is one of the more creative bass players around. when i first started listening to him i felt that he was a bit less of a bass player than a crazy artist with a bass in his hands. he really did invent his own way of playing. since he found another avenue to explore in the jam realm i think his tecnique has improved as well as his band leading and bands all together (GABY LALA!!!). nothing against Primus. they are a good example, in my mind, of high art finding its way to the top of the buisiness. i also know i will never need Viagra as long as i have a copy of Suck On This handy. props to claypool.

as for flea - he doesent enter into the slap bass competition. hollywood got the best of Flea. the Chillies were cool so so so long ago but lost thier way so long ago that it isnt funny. flea is an entertainer now. he has done nothing with an electric bass to deserve the attention he gets or mention along side Jaco or Less.

now Jaco - theres another story - ask less how he thinks his skills cdompare to Jaco. go ahead. jaco was so far ahead of ALL of us! would Victor or Oteil be the players they are today without Jaco? NOT A CHANCE! but i would compare those two to Jaco before i would Less and Jaco. its funny - i learned to slap from Edwin Hurwitz and at his recommendation Victor Wooten's instructional video. the things tought by the Victor video are a bit different than what Less is doing with his early playing...there is a diciplined method to the Wooten/Hurwitz/Burbridge slapping that you wont hear from early claypool. the stuff he does now - like the scene in rising Low where he is sitting in a chair playing - sounds a bit more diciplined to me - more like the stuff Wooten teaches. wacth his thumb. he is using less pressure with his thumb and right hand in genberal than the early stuff where he just beats the fucking hell out of his bass.

I will at this point add Edwin Hurwitz and Kai Eckhart as well as Reid Mathis to the list of the bad/badder/baddest. also i would kile to say that Oteil Burbridge is the best bass player i have heard playing bass to large audiences with mass attention. right after Alan Woody and Warren Haynes quit the ABB i played a gig with them and pulled Woody asside back stage to talk bass with him (dont let people tell you he was a teddy bear - he struck me as a big gnarly biker all the way). i was surprised when he told me that Oteil will never work well with the ABB because he is a 'jazz fusion player' but boy was he wrong. Oteil proved that not only gould he flex enormous muscle with ARU but with the 'Brothers - he trimmed it dowm and played nice and simple bass with the occasional unbelivably tasty fill. he even picked up a 4 string Fender Jazz Bass - sort of a clasic rock standard and before this i had never heard mim do so. BAD ASS!

So - if bass is a popsicle race today i will Say Oteil is king and Less gets the 'crazy artist who could re invent any instrument you can trrow at him - how nice, he chose bass' Less also wins the award for best self-depriciating humorist.

gee... i guess i can really get ranting about bass time, dont get me started....

G$Love starstarstar Fri 12/22/2006 02:54PM
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What about Mike Watt!

Danjo1988 Wed 12/27/2006 05:55AM
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Schools, Gordon?

nfenne Thu 12/28/2006 12:38PM
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Bliss: I will check out Halucenogentics. Blame it on the fish is worth owning for $15 I paid for it (might have been less).

Evilfunk: Well put! If you haven't heard Adrian Belew's album Side One you should check it out. Les & Danny Carey (tool) appear on the album and Les shows off some technique I haven't heard from his other projects.

EVILFUNK starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/28/2006 02:04PM
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shit....did i write all of that? im a cocky name dropping asshole! wacth out Tony Clifton - here i come....sorry for the spuewins....

schools moves earth!

i gotta hear the adrian belew record!

nfenne Fri 12/29/2006 06:53AM
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My favorite thing that Les has been doing live w/ the fancy band is sparring off w/ Gabby! It's amazing how he gets a frettless bass ti mimick a sitar.

Icculus049 starstar Wed 1/10/2007 07:46PM
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Victor Wooten, Phil lesh,Chris wood, Mike Gordon, John Kahn, Oteil, Paul Mcartney

Just To Name A Few All Four Of The List Above Are Terrific Bassists (Including Claypool Who I Wouldn't Place in the top 4) Although he'd make the cut for the Top Ten Due To His Original Style And Method . Also Flea Is A terrific Bass Player He Might Not Be In The Leauge Of Some Of These Guys But Dont Hate Hes Pretty Damn Good Chances Are He Can Out Play Anyone Who Would Be Dumb Enough To Talk Badly About Him