Review Summary: Primus is awesome when they're Primus, not anyone else.
Primus is one of those groups where, if I hear anyone make even the slightest remark against them, I will start a debacle with them that will probably last their entire lives. Of the entire music scene, they’re easily among the weirdest bands ever, combining elements of Funk, Metal, Folk, Polka, Psychedelic Rock, ect. This form of diversity comes from Bass Player, vocalist, and Lead songwriter Les Claypool, who stands out as Bass Guitar’s response to Steve Vai. He slaps, traps and yaks all of us with bass lines that you wish you could play, and maybe a bit glad you don’t try to compete. Les Claypool and his band’s fourth studio album, Tales From The Punchbowl, was considered kind of disappointment for fans who really liked early Primus releases, but from long time fanboy Max Harkness, I appreciate this album even if it is a little bit of a change for the commercial good of Primus.
Tales from the Punchbowl starts out with the seven minute “Professor Nutbutter’s House of Treats”, and head first we get everything that’s good about Primus: Les’s Funk Metal slapping, Melo-Metal riffing, driving drum beats, and of course, the Zappa-esqe lyrics and whiny vocals. However, after this song, the album is somewhat a mixed bag, though almost purposely inconsistent like most Primus albums. “Mrs. Blaileen” is easily one of the more metal songs on the album, heavy guitar riffing and energetic bass play galore, but the song is also one of the more repetitive beasts on Tales from the Punchbowl. “Wyona’s Big Brown Beaver” is nice track, with psychedelic metal bass guitar playing and some nice southern rock-inspired guitar riffing.
From what you’ve heard from, you’re probably thinking this is a generic Primus record, awesome. Not so, this album has the intrusion of an army of softer songs. “Southbound Pachyderm” is Primus’s attempt at a metal ballad, and as hard as they try not to, the song drags on and on with boring riffs and even when a cool bass riff does come along (only one really does), it gets over-used to the point of anger. “Over the Electric Grapevine” is like Primus’s attempt at one of those gimmicky indie songs that critics love to call quirky, and yet it is easily one of the better tracks on this album. The layers of guitar, bass, and echo-effect ridden vocals make for a rather enjoyable listen. “On The Tweek Again” is easily among Primus’s darkest songs, with doom-like slow melodies and evil, drab riffing, making for an oddly haunting listen that sounds a bit awkward, especially on a Primus album.
The fact is, though, Primus are much better at just being Primus. Some fans of Primus might call an album like this their Black Album, due to the more commercial inclusion, but I really wouldn’t compare this to such a bad album! Tales from the Punchbowl starts out rather awesome like most Primus albums, but takes a downward turn due to experimentation with softer elements and poor execution of those elements. Tales from the Punchbowl is still a good release, especially when Primus stick to being themselves, but when they don’t, they just don’t live up to the standards they set up for themselves.
“Professor Nutbutter’s House of Treats”
“Over the Electric Grapevine”