You don't have to be a dork to like Primus, but these days it sure helps. Dismissed by critics and hipsters alike as "cartoonish weirdo wankery" and almost universally named as the scapegoat for the n-metal holocaust of the late '90s, Les Claypool and company may have a hard time convincing people of their continued relevance. It probably won't help that the band notoriously dresses to amuse -- appearing on The Late Show as rotund puffins in top hats and basketball sneakers -- or that their closest musical relatives are perennial nerd favorites like Frank Zappa and Rush, rather than the Sonic Youths and Bob Dylans who entertain the cool kids.
Primus's lack of cachet perhaps explains the existence of their new best-of CD, They Can't All Be Zingers. Indeed, the Zingers cover sarcastically admits as much: "Classic Primus songs repackaged for your listening convenience and our financial benefit." Though Zingers does manage to compile the band's best songs, more or less, the need for it is unclear, since Primus's career has been defined not by singles, but by albums. And what albums they are. The first five Primus records, built on the high-flying joy of unrestrained musical imagination, are a carnival of boredom and adventure, frustration and laughter, drugs, sex, war, death, NASCAR and fishing -- in short, the great driving forces of American rock. The lineup that made those records has been reunited recently, and Primus is again as we all should be: free to be wankers, and proud to be dorks.
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