Prawn Song/ATO 2011
It’s almost ironic that on their first studio album in over a decade, Primus are still a musical anomaly. Admittedly the bands departure from the scene occurred on the back of perhaps their weakest album, 1999′s somewhat maligned “Antipop“; but that doesn’t mean that a new Primus album being in stores isn’t a cause for celebration alone, whether it ‘sucks’ or not.
Having spent the past decade in a state of on again/off again hiatus, their long-awaited return isn’t without casualties. For “Green Naugahyde” feels the absence of the bands most popular drummer, Tim “Herb” Alexander“–though that’s not to say it suffers from it.
His replacement, early-era Primus drummer Jay Lane, delivers an electrifying kit spanning performance in his stead. In fact, in many ways it feels like Lane‘s colorful and deep in the pocket playing keeps the group fluid and on task. Pushing them evermore towards a territory more akin to the sonic weirdness found on their full-length debut, “Frizzle Fry“.
Of course some will be worried about an invasion of the folky weirdness and perpetual meandering found on frontman/bassist Les Claypool‘s recent solo output. But thankfully they will have little to decry here. “Green Naugahyde” is flush with quirky irrelevance, slinky funk overtones and a chaotic mix of metallic bombast and jazzy chops. As if it needs to be said, it also features the trademark rubbery distorted bass-driven heroics that defined the band, with Claypool basking in all of his trademark kook.
Exceptional talent is exhibited from top to bottom. But what particularly makes “Green Naugahyde” stand out in the bands catalogue is the overall cohesiveness of its songwriting. There’s little reliance on overpowering effects or outlandish one-off instruments. What there is instead is oodles of intrinsic groove and dynamic interplay that could only have sprouted from organic jam room nurturing. A quality that shines through time and time again via the subtle rhythmic interactions and playful dynamics that repeatedly emerge.
That said, while certainly one of Primus‘ most focused and solidly written efforts; “Green Naugahyde” doesn’t necessarily possess a standout quirky ‘hit’ like so many of their past records. What it does have is an abundance of talented instrumental ability, peculiar timing and a wealth of sonic diversity. It won’t convert those not already in tune with the group’s eccentric output, even with a timely song (“Eyes Of The Squirrel“) deriding the inanity of pop culture.
But it will surely bring a smile (and possibly hand cramps) to any Primus fan who was worried that the group may have lost their spark or their way after such a prolonged absence from the spotlight.
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