Though they're cited as one of the key influences on the rap-metal crowd due their combination of biting guitar and funky bass lines, Primus are a much quirkier, more avant garde band than their list of disciples might suggest. Making their debut at the start of the '90s, they blazed a new trail with a mix of alternative rock, amped-up funk, a touch of metal, and a healthy dose of Zappa-inspired weirdness. Spearheaded by the crazed bass playing of leader Les Claypool, the unique Primus sound crosses over into the disparate worlds of heavy rock, jam bands, and alt rock, but the band remains a musical island unto itself.
Released on the independent Caroline label in 1990, Frizzle Fry documents the San Francisco Bay area thrash-funk trio at its energetic best. The bare-bones production serves the group's skeletal sound well and makes the most of nearly live performances of gems such as the antiwar "Too Many Puppies," the stoner testimony of "Spegetti Western," and the madcap litany of "Groundhog's Day." Larry LaLonde's guitar is more melodic and concise than the squirrelly avant-gardisms of later albums such as Pork Soda (many of the lines were written by original guitarist Todd Huth). Bassist Les Claypool, meanwhile, is just stunning. By turns sounding like a scrappy Larry Graham or a dirty-minded John Wetton, his four-string slaps, slurs, and squeaks form a perfect union with drummer Tim Alexander's jazz-informed power beats. Claypool's goofy vocals owe a lot to P.I.L.-era John Lydon, with lyrics about Corn Chex, striped bass, and porn films. An inspired and assured studio debut. --James Rotondi
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