SAVE THE GNAUGAS!!!
Primus’ first studio album in eleven years* was released yesterday and hot damn and a buttermilk biquick it SUCKS!!!And of course by that in Primus speak I mean it is quite awesome, or as ol’ Uncle Les might say, “That’s a tasty burger”.
Although originally rumors were that this album would see the reunited lineup of Claypool, Ler and Herb that is not the case, HOWEVER, drummer Jay Lane, of Claypool’s other band (and, if I remember correctly, original Primus lineup) Sausage is sitting on the throne for the album and fear not true believers, Green Gnaugahyde is a slapping, plodding, stomping rhythmic tour de force that is chock full o’ the cynical, twisted and often just plain weird stylings fans of the band no doubt have been craving in their absence.
For a two-second pitch I’d haveta say Gnauga comes off something like a hybrid of the songwriting we heard on 1997’s Brown Album mixed with the production of ’99’s AntiPop. Like a strange, slick storytime given by an unstable cyborg uncle in a dystopian future, Gnauga is thirteen tracks – including a bookend intro and outro a la Pork Soda – made up of a lot of meaty, funny and slightly caustic songs inbetween. Lyrically Claypool is in familiar territory here – his eye for societal shortcomings and ineptitudes is nothing short of all-seeing and the way he translates these into sometimes-taut, sometimes-sprawling, Bob Dylan-esque parables is a cool drink of water for Claypool-parched ears. The musicianship is, of course, so good it borders on alien** and the production is top notch – produced and engineered by Claypool at his Rancho Relaxo studio the album, like all Primus albums, has a tight, consistent sound that emphasizes the truly original take on rhythm Les puts into all of his stuff. Mixing records is all about creating EQ windows – sonic spaces where every instrument and sound can be free to live and flourish in their appropriate place without infringing on each other. Claypool has always had a beautiful knack for this – just listen to the drums on track six, Eyes of the Squirrel; when the drums come in the repeating riff Lane plays uses the floor tom – listen to the way the deep, ominous sound of that drum hangs in the air and dissipates naturally, never interfering with the kick or any other skins, creating a juggernaut of a beat upon which they build and take away, slam and parry.
That ain’t easy to do.
Claypool has some new tricks up his sleeve on the bass as well. Antipop was the first album where the character of his bass changed a bit to incorporate some more left-of-center effects for a bass (not that anything the man’s ever done has been center – that’s why we love him!!!), i.e. the delay on that album’s track six, Eclectic Electric. Gnauga is rife with bass effects as well, most notably auto wah. As usual though, Les knows how to do it and not get carried away; his effects always enhance the song, they never are the song. That makes the oddity that is Primus that much more impressive, as it would be a lot easier to make strange, alien music with the jumbled use of effects than by teaching oneself to play a new way. But that’s Primus – no one else sounds like them.
I’ll leave you with a track, one that features some of the most bad ass guitar/bass/drums interplay I’ve heard since… well, since the last Primus album. If you like it, go buy it!!!
So thanks again Les and crew – see you guys on tour!!!
* Eleven years? Really? That’s making me feel a bit old seeing as how I can vivdly remember the night Anti-Pop came out, sitting at the Rocking Chair Lounge with Brown and our friend Sonny, heading back to Sonny’s later and listening to it in the makeshift recording studio in his basement, Brown jumping for joy when the last track ran out and the disc kept going to reveal the first studio version of The Heckler as the hidden track …
** I still maintain that although there is a lot of weird music out there, most of it sounds like humans making weird music. Primus sounds like music aliens would make on a different planet.