It’s been eleven long years since Primus went on hiatus, and in that time their cult status has only grown, following their rise to prominence in the nineties with their experimental jams of absurdity. After years of Mackerels, Bernie Brains and Fearless Flying Frogs, Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde, now reunited with original drummer Jay Lane, are back with ‘Green Naugahyde’, their seventh studio album and first new materal since 2003’s ‘Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People’.
There’s plenty of interesting themes abound on ‘Green Naugahyde’; ‘Jilly’s on Smack’ describes a friend the band lost due to a heroin addiction; ‘Lee Van Cleef’ is a tale of Claypool’s childhood, and there’s more in the form of alien abduction (‘Green Ranger’), stabs at reality TV and indeed our viewing habits (‘Moron TV’) and our obsession with eternally socialising online (‘Eyes of the Squirrel’)
There’s a heart of darkness within ‘Green Naugahyde’ that pervades through the course of the album. It’s not all grim but the aforementioned ‘Jilly’s on Smack’ has a deep rumbling bass groove, as Claypool refrains “Jilly’s on smack/and she won’t be coming back/for the holidays” at numerous points. There’s also a psycho-circus vibe of ‘Eternal Consumption Engine’, which ends with a bastard chant of “Everything’s made in China” In a weird way it’s a gleeful moment, and let’s not forget that Primus are forever capable of making catchy, hopping songs that give the three-piece their trademark quirk – of which there are plenty of those.
For example, ‘Last Salmon Man (Fisherman’s Chronicles, Part IV)’ continues the aforementioned Chronicles and leads listeners through a merry swamp march;
while ‘Tragedy’s A’ Comin’’ is one of the finest funk songs I’ve heard in a while, with a bouncing chorus that will worm into your brain and command you to jive; the aforementioned ‘Lee Van Cleef’, which doubles up as a tribute to the actor of the same name; and ‘HOINFODAMAN’, which is aggressive in its delivery but has enough pop and zazz to keep it uptempo.
Returning drummer Lane often takes a back seat in more ways than one to Claypool’s obvious ridiculous bass skills, but does get the chance to shine often enough too, getting a nice little drum intro on ‘Green Ranger’ and chucking in tight little fills and rolls all over the shop when called upon. LaLonde doesn’t even get quite as much prominence as on previous Primus records, but still backs up Claypool favourably, shoving in plenty of subtle licks and bridges above those numerous grooves.
With Lane back on the throne, the album definitely takes a more direct approach akin to the ‘Frizzle Fry’ days, rarely meandering and drifting off into jam experimentalism. The years have been kind to Primus – they’ve managed to return with an album that doesn’t rely on their previous success and still sounds remarkably fresh today. It might take a little while to grow on you but it’s worth repeated listening, and it’s pleasant to see that Primus haven’t lost their touch while in the wilderness.