Primus - Tales from the Punchbowl

by Giovanni Sarbia.

I apologize for my problems with English language.

I think the Primus have changed much of their playing style. The main feature of the most of previous Primus's songs was the presence of a short bass guitar theme repeated all along the song with many variations in the foreground, while Ler was always in the background playing music almost completely unrelated to what Les was doing. So the overall Primus sound was a highly rythmic sound with a simple melody.

In "Tales from the Punchbowl" Ler is often in the foreground, contributing much to the melodic side of the songs. Infact the songs now are much more melodic, less "beating" then before, even if Herb, however, does a great job as before. The problem is that now there are none of the great bass solos of Les that we've seen in the previous CDs.

Some songs recall arab sounds, as "Mrs. Blaileen" and "Southbound Pachyderm". I like 'em very much, but it's not someone could expect from Primus.

Talkin' about those songs, there's another novelty in Primus' style. The voice of Les has changed, it's no more acid and cartoon-like. It's much warmer than before, but also more hidden than before behind the instruments. Since the music is more melodic, Les is much less screaming and "rapping", and sings often in a melodic way, sometimes following the melody of the music (a clear example is "Southbound Pachyderm"). The voice is even whispering sometimes, and this is another new features that can be good but can also drive to sadness old Primus' fans.

Now I would like to describe quickly the songs.

"Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats" is a noisy song, absolutely different from the other songs of the CD I'm talkin' about. I think it's one of the worst songs of this CD, it's a pity that it's the first track. Maybe it's somehow conceived as a link with the old Primus' style, but I'm not sure.

"Mrs Blaileen" is one of the songs that most reflect the new Primus style. There is the arab sound, the melodic and whispering voice of Les and Ler in the foreground. I regard this as one of the best songs of the CD.

"Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" is the one we'll listen to the radio in the next days. It's very easy to listen, maybe you could even dance it... but nevertheless I think that it's absolutely not easy to play it. It seems a blues song, and here it's the only place where you can find Les' voice a bit similar to the old one.

"Southbound Pachyderm" is, as "Mrs. Blaileen", a "trendy new atrocity" of Primus. Here Les' voice is really "serious", following the melodic theme of the song, that's unusually slow and warm. But I think it sucks a lot.

"Space Farm" is funny little song made mostly of animal noises, mostly pork's noises...

"Year of the Parrot" is a rythmic song, maybe with a complex rythmic pattern, but it's one of the worst of the CD. Les performs long vocalizations but his bass does nothing of really outstanding.

"Hellbound 17 1/2" is much jazzy. It's a theme from something I don't know, maybe a movie that didn't show up in Italy. The job of Les is really simple, while Ler contributes to give "life" to the song.

"Glass Sandwich" is based on a bass pattern that recalls much the cover of "Sinister Exaggerator" that you can find on "Misc. Debris". It seems that Les uses a bow to play bass here. His voice goes up and down followin' the bass notes. The overall sound is "ghosty" and psychedelic, something you wouldn't like to listen to in a dark castle...

"Del Davis Tree Farm" is one of the most similar to the old style Primus' songs, with a bass pattern repeated all along the song, but with Ler in the foreground following Les and with a sort of refrain that breaks the main bass pattern.

"De Anza Jig" is another joke from Primus, a country/folk song that Les sings in a way that reminds me of an old farmer.

"On The Tweek Again" follows the old Primus' style, but it's slower and the voice of Les has a strange high pitch.

"Over The Electric Grapevine" is the last good example of the great change made by Primus. The voice of Les follows the soft melody of the song, completely made out by Les' bass. The final part of this song is performed by Ler and Herb, who create a psychedelic athmosphere. I think that this track, with track 2,3,4 is enough to regard this CD as worth to be bought by anyone who likes good music.

"Captain Shiner" is simply one of the usual strange piece of music that Primus use to end a CD. This is made with a typical style used by Les when he plays the bass (sorry, I'm Italian and I can't figure out how to call that kind of bass playing).

In conclusion, I miss the marvellous bass solos by Les, maybe now he's less egocentric. But the fact that Primus changed a lot remaining still on top levels of musical quality, is a good thing, 'cause nobody can get bored listening to them. The change they made is at the same time big enough and small enough. They've changed enough to attract new fans and to amaze the old ones, and they remained enough the same as before to please the lovers of the "hard'n'rythmic" sound of Primus and the lovers of the magic sounds produced by Les' bass guitar.

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