Primus : Green Naugahyde

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Primus – one of the greatest cult bands of all time – is making a triumphant return with a new album, 11 long years since 1999’s Antipop. It is a monumental occasion, but two immediate concerns for this fan were: “How will Primus sound with Jay ‘Jaski’ Lane back on drums?” and “Is this going to end up sounding like Sausage, or a Les Claypool solo record featuring Larry ‘Ler’ LaLonde and Jayski?” The following will answer these questions, and give you some insight into what the hell Green Naugahyde is all about.

Naugahyde? A type of fake leather, in case you were wondering… But this is just one example of the many obscure references and strange tales contained in the album’s lyrics. Things such as piano-playing cats, reality TV, Obama’s pecker, Charlie Sheen, heroin junkies, filthy whores, child molesters, tuna casserole … you know, pretty standard fare. A very topical album compared to previous Primus releases and very different from anything the band has ever done. All the while, the fine musicianship and overall feel of the album is 100-percent unadulterated Primus. Recorded at Claypool’s infamous home studio, “Rancho Relaxo,” every single track was produced and engineered by “The Colonel” himself.

The Green Naugahyde experience begins “Prelude to a Crawl,” a brief, powerful bass intro that segues perfectly into the first actual song, “Hennepin Crawler.” At first it seems to be some mysterious traveling carnival ride or some such nonsense; however,  “Hennepin Crawler” is most likely that giant Dr. Seuss-like bicycle on which the band posed for the cover of the June 2010 Rehearsal EP. Supposedly, “When you ride that Hennepin Crawler for a dollar you get to bite that pie in the sky.” It is a quirky little tune and an early highlight of the album.

After crawling, Primus goes fishing. “Last Salmon Man” is the fourth installment of the Fisherman’s Chronicles, joining “John the Fisherman,” “Fish On,” and “The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon.” This is one of the most penetrating songs on the record. With the declining salmon fishing industry in northern California as the song’s topic, the lyrics tell the tale of two fishermen, a boy named Jimmy and his father. With lyrics like, “With his hand on his shoulder he looked out at the waters and said son it is my fear … that you’ll be the last salmon man,” it is clever, infectious, heavy, and very Primus.

“Eternal Consumption Engine” is best described as a silly mash-up of Claypool’s TV work on “South Park Theme” and “Robot Chicken,” and Pork Soda‘s “Mr. Krinkle.” It’s one hell of a jig about American consumerism, poking fun at our country’s obsession with buying shit we don’t need. Les says things like “Here in the U.S.A., we sure do like to spend our pay,” and, “Every time I get a little bit bored, head down to the “Wally Mart” store,” before concluding with, “Everything now-a-days is made in China.”

“Tragedy’s A’ Comin’” is best described as a super funky version of Anitpop‘s “Ballad of Bodacious” gone horribly right, with a vibe closer to Brown Album‘s “Golden Boy.” “Eyes of the Squirrel” is one of the darker tracks Naugahyde has to offer, with outstanding drum work, a heavy bass line, and an “all seeing” squirrel. Despite its gloomy feel, “Eyes of the Squirrel” succeeds with an exceptionally wicked jam sequence toward the end of the track that features flamenco-style bass work from Les, ridiculous-as-usual guitar work from Ler, and dead-on precision from Jayski. 

“Jilly’s on Smack” continues on with a playful and creepy number intensified by Les’ bowed bass. “Lee Van Cleef” is the obvious choice for the “feel-good song of the record,” and more of Lane’s rhythmic drum skills are showcased on “Moron TV.” “Green Ranger” is the only track that doesn’t seem to amaze’ quite as much as the others, and it is overpowered by “HOINFODAMAN,” undoubtedly the heaviest track on the LP. Written by LaLonde, it’s pretty evident that he owns this track from the very start.

The last song on Green Naugahyde, “Extinction Burst,” is prog-rock madness at its finest, with signature Claypool bass, Ler’s spastic guitar, and Jay’s precise and rhythmic percussion. The album comes to an end in fine Primus fashion, with “Salmon Men,” a short reprise of “Last Salmon Man” played on a keyboard with Les singing “The Last Salmon Man” over and over. It is the perfect way to end such an intense and enjoyable experience.  

Primus has come a long way since Antipop, an album that received mixed reactions from fans and critics alike, largely due to the cast of contributing artists, including Tom Morello, James Hetfield, Tom Waits and Fred Durst. Green Naugahyde rights the wrongs of Antipop, and leaves Primus’ studio catalogue on a much higher note.

Green Naugahyde is out now on ATO Records and Prawn Songs.

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