1990, Music

Frizzle Fry (1990) by Primus

At some point early in his career Les Claypool, the Jimi Hendrix of the Bass Guitar, made a decision. He decided he wanted to be the leader of his own band, the lead singer and primary songwriter. The thing is, though I would argue incessantly that Claypool is the “greatest” bass player in the history of rock music – hence why I just compared him to Hendrix – he is not a conventionally great singer or songwriter – his voice is extremely unappealing to most people (and feels like a joke) and his songs are mostly very inaccessible or weird, to put it mildly. This decision to lead his own band probably made him much happier but it also made him far less famous than he might have been had he, say, successfully auditioned for Metallica, or whatever.

I mention this because Primus’ studio debut is already extremely weird and I can imagine anyone who was completely unaware of their existence at the time – basically anybody who wasn’t aware of their debut live album – might be put off by Claypools’ voice or his idiosyncratic approach to songs, whether it’s the Rush sample or the song-fragments or the just the uncategorizable nature of everything here – what is this music exactly?

But so much of what is appealing to me is how Primus essentially invented their own alternative metal subgenre – way too weird for funk metal, way too funky (and sometimes way too country) to be prog metal, way too accessible to be avant metal and, of course, way too metal and way too funky and weird to be math rock. They are their own thing. And it seems essentially fully formed on this studio debut.

It helps that they are excellent musicians. LaLonde is so good – and gets the showier instrument – that you sometimes forget to listen to the crazy shit that Claypool is doing. And, for all Claypool conventional defects as a singer and a songwriter, the band are so good that it really doesn’t matter that there are only a couple of tracks hat would become Primus standards on this record – if you like good musicianship these guys can sell you anything. (Sometimes it sounds like they are trying to.)

Really, it’s a great thing Claypool didn’t just want to be a bassist in some more convention band. Otherwise we wouldn’t have this: an utterly unique debut album by an utterly unique band.


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