Review Summary: It grooves hard. It shreds hard. It's awesome. It's Primus.Green Naugahyde
is Primus’s first album in twelve years. Twelve.
That’s like, two years more than a decade.
After waiting that long, it’s pretty difficult to talk about the current state of a band without at least mentioning the marks they left in previous stages of their career. And for those that don’t know, Primus’s unconventional approach to what I guess you could call “alternative rock,” and their somewhat satirical image was actually seen by quite a few people in the 90s. After releasing their first studio album, Frizzle Fry,
in 1990, the band caught the attention of Interscope Records, and then put out their first major-label album, Sailing the Seas of Cheese,
in 1991. That album had two singles for which music videos were made, and actually put on MTV. It’s strange to think that Interscope, a record label typically so mainstream, would sign such a bizarre band. But what’s even stranger is that that was probably the reason the band caught Interscope’s attention in the first place.
After four more albums, the last of which being 1999’s Antipop,
Primus has been pretty much off the radar for a lot of people. The band went on a hiatus in 2001 and reformed in 2003, and between that year and 2010 they toured, put out an EP, a live DVD, a compilation, and have been on both Guitar Hero 2 and Rockband 3. It seems like they’ve been doing everything except
writing new music. And it was pretty hard to know what to expect if they had
been writing new music, due to the lengthy amount of time between their most recent album and now, and also due to the fact that no one really knows what to expect from this band anyway. But I think it’s safe to say that that lack of pressure has worked out well for Primus, and has made their return, Green Naugahyde,
yet another one of their creative peaks. Along with the excitement coming from just hearing new Primus music after such a long time, the album itself is consistently exciting as well. It’s bizarre, it’s a blast, and it was well worth the wait.
contains all the well-known Primus trademarks, like vocalist/bassist Les Claypool’s renowned, loud and funky bass playing (in my opinion, he’s the best bass player there ever was), guitarist Larry LaLonde’s dissonant melodies that jump all around Claypool’s rhythms, and the amusing, sarcastic lyrics. Actually, not only does the album have all of these things, but it has them in spades.
In “Hennepin Crawler,” the bass part actually leads the song, with the guitar playing the rhythm, which is pretty uncommon. (Well, uncommon for popular music. It’s actually quite common for Primus.) And the way the bass pattern brazenly, almost violently bounces off the ominous guitar rhythm in “Moron TV” also brings back memories of good ol’ funky Primus. And the bass in this album is loud.
Along with the very well-thought out song structures, Claypool’s cool, bouncy, and very self-assured bass playing gives these songs really hard,
infectious grooves that are pretty difficult not to get lost in.
I mentioned earlier that Green Naugahyde
also has sort of the same style of sarcastic, ridiculing lyrics Primus is pretty well-known for. A good example of this is “Eternal Consumption Engine,” a song about America’s seemingly compulsive desires to buy
stuff. The idea is summed up pretty well in these lines:
Here in the U.S.A.,
We sure do like to spend our pay,
The more I make, the more I buy,
Slinging out the slices of American pie
The whole idea of “the man,” a metaphorical corporate monster watching over us and constantly trying to sell us things, is also talked about, “HOINFODAMAN” being the most logical example.
I used to be a pimp,
Now I’m HOINFODAMAN, HOINFODAMAN,
I’m HOIN for the advertising, the advertising man
This song also has a pretty clever, and very relevant reference to today’s most infamous washed-up celebrity:
Soda pops and pimple cream will always kick ya down the green,
But the worst thing ‘bout ol’ Charlie Sheen is when Hanes, they sold his ass
Sometimes the lyrics are strange and amusing, sometimes they’re more serious and thought-provoking (and at times a little unsettling), and sometimes they’re both. But they’re always 100% Primus.
But while those well-known Primus trademarks are giving Green Naugahyde
a sturdy foundation, and a sense of familiarity so as not to alienate any long-time fans after their long absence, the album is also utilizing a number of new elements that make the album sound fresh, diverse, and very, very intriguing. The general atmosphere of the album is something to note in itself; it’s so bizarre and… strangely unsettling. It’s an atmosphere that sounds like it shouldn’t be inviting at all, but ends up being the exact opposite. This atmosphere is created by Primus’s new fondness for lengthier ambient passages, like the one a little more than halfway through “Eyes of the Squirrel,” or in the middle of “Last Salmon Man.” Both of these passages are great examples of the album’s bouncy, bubbly bass, and dreamy, almost entrancing delay effect-built atmosphere. But these are just two examples of passages where those sounds continue for a longer amount of time; every song on the album contains this weird atmosphere to some extent. And it makes it so the album never seems to get stale after repeated listens. There’s always more quirks to be found in Green Naugahyde.
Weird, experimental quirks like the tribal drumming in the beginning of “Eternal Consumption Engine” (very much adding to the eeriness of the song), or the frantic guitar noodling in between lines of the verses in “Extinction Burst,” among others, are all ground very fine and incorporated very tastefully into the songs. They’re not there just for the sake of it, they’re there to add to whatever mood that particular song was going for, and like I said before, to keep the album so it never loses any of its funky, Primusy freshness.
So whether it be the extremely tight songwriting, the loud, bouncy, and intricate bass stylings of Les Claypool, the amusing and occasionally bizarre lyrics, or the entrancing and strange, but oddly inviting atmospheres and ambient passages, there’s not a whole lot about Green Naugahyde
that doesn’t rule. It grooves hard, it shreds hard, but best of all, it satisfies after a long, twelve-year wait. Primus is back!