Primus: Green Naugahyde

Green Naugahyde
(ATO Records)

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The first thing you hear on Green Naugahyde is a low-frequency rumble that slowly takes the shape of a bass note. This is how Primus says, “We’re back.” Frankly, it’s good to have them back. Being a Primus fan has not always been easy. The last time they released new material was eight years ago and came in the form of the enjoyable but brief Animal’s Should Not Try to Act Like People. In between they had long stretches of inactivity and some disappointing shows. Vocalist/bassist Les Claypool had admitted to being disenfranchised with the band and questioned their future at one time but thankfully they’ve come back, sounding rejuvenated.

The main reason for this is the return of drummer Jay Lane who was an early member of Primus, but left before they recorded their first album. Welcoming this new/old blood back into the fold also welcomed back Claypool’s desire to make demented progish rock music. Songwriting-wise, Green Naugahyde is most reminiscent of the darker material on albums like The Brown Album and Animals. Rhythmically, however, its much more akin to Primus’ earliest songs due to Lane’s drumming. After hearing him pound the skins here it makes me wonder how they ever played without him. He has that same blend of technical proficiency and bizarre sense of humor that his band mates have. I don’t know how many other drummers could have turned a wacky pop song like “Lee Van Cleef” into a virtuosic workout.

This album may not give me the same perverse pleasure I get from older albums like Sailing the Seas of Cheese and Tales from the Punchbowl, but it certainly has it’s moments. “Last Salmon Man” is as classic a Primus song as you could possibly expect, with its massive, dark verses, and weird jazzy bridge. “Tragedy’s A’ Comin’” is full-on P-Funk. The lyrics are mostly ridiculous, as one would expect, but what this album really says is that alternative rock’s court jesters are not going away just yet. That’s something we can all be glad about.

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