In the words of Primus frontman, Les Claypoll they sound like a chicken or maybe some sort of space robot and that’s not far from the truth…
Primus might not be a name that slips of the tongue, but if you are a fan, then this DVD is all you need for your audio/visual Primus needs. If you’re not a fan, then this is a superb introduction to the band. You’ve definitely heard them before, though, even if you think you haven’t, as they are responsible for the South Park theme. Sounding like, in singer/bass player Les Claypool’s words, ‘angry chickens or maybe a space robot’, Primus are a bass heavy experimental funk (ish) band with strong hints of heavy rock influences. They came to prominence in the early nineties for a few minutes before disappearing under the sea of angst that was grunge.
So are they worth re-discovering? The answer is very possibly ‘yes’ if you hanker after a band that sound like The Red Hot Chili Peppers used to sound like in their more free-flow early experimental years. Les Claypool is, without doubt, one of the most astounding bass players you’ll ever see. His hands are a blur they run up and down the neck, producing odd, discordant stabbing bass attacks that circle and provide the backbone for the songs. Live, of course, is where the band really shone, and there’s enough live performance on here to get the idea.
The meat of the disc, though, is in the thirteen promo videos provided and very odd little videos they are as well. It’s difficult to know how to describe them really. Usually mixing live performance with surreal animation and small storyboard segments that make little sense but usually allude to the title of the song in some way. For instance My Name Is Mud features fat men in mud baths while les Claypool sings from under a tree with what looks like a corpse under a blanket in the foreground. DMV is a one shot takes which features circus performers. Nobody could ever work out what Tommy The Cat means in an analytical sense, but the video is great fun and features milk, animated alley cats and the weirdest barman you’ll see. Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver defies description, but you can guess what it features. Or perhaps not. Watched back to back, they slowly suck you into a logic free world that defines it’s own boundaries. Real life will seem just that slightest bit duller.
Not fantastic all the time, as you would expect, given the source material. Much of the extra material is little better than the VHS it was obviously mastered from. Given the nature of the material, though, it hardly matters. The promos themselves are better, and look remarkably good. Not demo material certainly, but they’re clean and bright with strong colouring and no sign of bleeding or noise. They do show their age somewhat, but still look much better than you’d reasonably expect.
Much better, at least on the promos themselves. An excellent, bass-heavy 2.0 mix and you’d better check with the neighbors before cranking this one up. It’s a shame there’s no sub channel, as this could have sounded great, given the bass heavy nature of the music. It was tested on 2 set ups, it should be noted. A standard stereo amplifier and through a 5.1 system and there was no noticable lack on the 2.0 set up; it still sounded loud and full and although the rears added to the soundstage slightly, there was no real difference in quality.
However, most of the exras are also in Stereo 2.0, and some sound quite muddy. Given that some of these are no better than bootlegs, it can be forgiven.
Not as exciting as it might sound. The band are not full of interesting anecdotes and it’s clear in some cases, that they have actually forgotten making the videos. Perhaps that’s as it should be, but at times, all they do is animate your own thoughts. ‘That’s pretty cool’, they’ll say, or ‘this is a cool video’. Not essential listening, but occasionally interesting points and trivia are pointed out.
Cheesy Home Video
Previously available on VHS, gives some insight into the rip-off these ‘home videos’ could sometimes be. It’s basically home video footage of the band on tour in Europe and with some grainy live footage. Interesting, though, and a nice little extra.
The Making of Brown
Short little promo featuring studio footage and some sketch material. Peculiar but the sort of thing you’ll recognise if you have MTV.
The Making of Wynona
B-roll footage and behind the scenes mini interviews from the shoot for the video which, of course, features the band dressed as cartoon cowboys.
VHS quality footage of the band performing three tracks at Stanford University, circa 1989. Sound quality is surprisingly good, though, and you get three full tracks, To Defy The Laws Of Tradition, Too Many Puppies and Frizzle Fry.Good stuff.
The Making Of Mr Krinkle
More B-roll footage from the unnecessarily complicated video shoot. Mr Krinkle is one of those one shot videos, which features a variety of circus performers for some reason. Hideously chaotic.
New Year’s Eve 93-94
Live footage from Oakland. Two songs, Groundhog’s Day and Mr Krinkle. Presented, oddly, in non-anamorphic 1:85/1 it’s quite grainy and washed out looking, but sounds clean and full.
Another two songs, Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers and My Name Is Mud. Blue Collar is presented in some sort of weird aspect ratio that’ll wreak havoc on your set. It looks like 1:78/1, but there’s no black border, just a sort of weird blue and green psychedelic one. Picture and sound are good, though. Not so for My Name Is Mud as it looks like it’s from a fan bootleg, although the sound is surprisingly good and there is no need for the 1:85/1 ratio, but at least the weird border has gone. Both of these songs give an insight into the horror that was 90’s Woodstock…
Not so, Primus come across as being quite nice chaps, but this is a short interview/live performance segment from unspecified locations. Lots of studio and backstage footage as well. As odd as you would expect. Features a dreadful nose piercing clip that’ll make your eyes water. Quality varies somewhat, as you would expect.
38 of them.
The Devil Went Down To Georgia
Odd little promo, which features a wonderfully animated little video featuring the Devil attempting to steal the soul of some poor young boy. Good and picture quality is quite excellent.
More VHS quality, almost a promo video, stuff. Featuring the usual backstage stuff, photoshoots and interview and life footage. Fun.
A very complete one, too.
Is there nothing on this disc that isn’t rare? No matter, here we have some very early and odd performances by the band. Sgt Baker from a musicians collective rent party and featuring Les Claypool looking like a blond nazi poster boy. Very poor picture quality and sound. Groundhog’s Day from Oakland and, again, featuring very poor Audio/Visual quality. Perhaps best of all is Bob Cock And The Yellow Sock performing Tommy The Cat which is a be-bop version of the old classic. It’s a pity you can’t see or hear it very well, though. In fairness to the discs producers, whenever really sub-standard footage is included, you are warned about it by the inclusion of Bootleg Quality on the menu system.
This really is a bonus. No less than five all-new songs from the original line-up of Les Claypool, Larry Lalonde and Tim Alexander. They reveal that Primus has evolved little, but that’s probably a good think. Funky and with the trademark stabbing bass lines.
Not strictly an extra, but this is a nicely done example that contains the lyrics to the new songs and a rather nice essay by Adam Gates on why he thinks the band are important.
If you’re a Primus fan you’ll need no encouragement to snap this up. It’s about as complete as you could wish for, and those new songs make it an irresistible package. Anyone seeking an introduction could do worse as well, as it certainly gives a full flavor of what the band are about. They’re the sort of band that are massive on American college campuses and hardly known outside of that peculiar world. They’re self-consciously wacky, a bit too much some would say, but there’s no denying that Les Claypool is one of the most talented musicians practicing today and it’ll take you months to get through the extras here.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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