It was a glorious day yesterday eating pancakes and macadamia nut crusted Mahi Mahi and listening to old records. Today, however, it’s back to business beginning with a 60 minute spin [3 x (1 min hard seated climb / 1 min recovery) w/ 5 min active recovery in between intervals] followed up with a 3300m swim. Swim n’ spin; such are my Monday evenings now. So prior to my own Masters Spin class and the pool, there’s the 60 minutes worth of sweat and hills to deal with set to the ‘Tales From the Punchbowl‘ album by Primus.
Back in my first year of university I lived with a bunch of guys who were hardcore Primus fans and I thought they were all weirdos. Anyway, this was the big album that had been released at the time (1995). By now, Primus’ modus operandi had been made clear and well-established: twisted bass/drum grooves reminiscent of King Crimson gone horribly, horribly wrong, insane ringmaster vocals with cartoonish lyrics, and cutting, off-the-wall guitar. Trying to explain Primus to the uninitiated is pretty much a mission impossible. A discourse on quantum physics would probably make more sense. Reading Les Claypool‘s lyrics and listening to his Elmer Fudd vocals and indescribable slap-and-slash bass, one gets the sense that he’s completely immersed in his own strange world and, in fact, I do believe that he is.
Here, the intonation of Claypool’s trademark fretless bass (a sore spot in the past) more spot-on than ever, and guitarist Larry LaLonde’s Fripp-isms are truly convincing for the first time. And then there’s the octopus-like drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander. Together, this whack-assed trio deconstructs funk, prog rock, and metal into a neat little pile of junk that it reassembles into a variety of nutty musical caricatures.
The cool thing about Primus is that while they are a very goofy and fun-loving band, there seems to be an underlying seriousness to their music as well, sometimes even dark and disturbing. ‘Mrs. Blaileen‘ is a chilling tale of a tormented child who murders one of his classmates, and the awesomely-entitled ‘Professor Nutbutter’s House of Treats‘ seems to have an obscure reference to child molestation. Because, hey, who doesn’t like tunes about child murder and molestation while spinning? ‘Year of the Parrot‘ has a great message about plagiarism in music, which is especially significant, considering that Primus were doing their own thing in a time when bands were all starting to sound the same. And then there’s the tongue-in-cheek ‘Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver‘, a true classic with an impossibly infectious groove, and pretty hilarious lyrics. There’s really not a bad song on here.
This is extremely progressive, sure, but it’s still very catchy despite the madness. Thing is, it all works on the bike through a series of hard 1 minute pushes. It’s absolute madness but, fuck, it’s perfect!