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Primus - Pork Soda CD (album) cover




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3.34 | 135 ratings

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2 stars Prog Nada

This is not a Progressive Rock album, but for 1993 it was certainly one that stood out from the pack. Essentially based in the Funk metal explosion led by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, to a slightly lesser extent, Jane's Addiction, Primus were, at the time of this album, going for broke on the experimental and wackiness scale, but siting the root of the music firmly in the established paths without breaking any new ground, being technically challenged and compositionally almost void of ideas, especially on where to take the music. Formally, there's nothing here that hadn't already been exploited by the Happy Mondays.

Where they had ideas was in how to make the music sound more wacky - it's all about the timbre and rhythm. Timbre-wise, in places, you might be forgiven for thinking you're listening to a funked-up '80s period King Crimson without the technical ability.

"Pork Chop's Little Ditty". Well, little is right. It starts about 10 seconds into the 21-second track, and when it does, it's a badly played mandolin and derivative - a vague attempt to produce something folky sounding without a clear understanding of the type of music they were trying to represent. I guess the point is to set a light hearted and thin sound from which to drop into the funky bass riff of "My Name is Mud".

"My Name is Mud" is entertaining enough, and has a great bass riff and sound, Anthony Keidis style rapping with fun guitars - but nothing Syd Barrett didn't do 2 and a half decades previously on the guitar. Here is one point at which I'm vaguely reminded of something from "Discipline", musically speaking - although there is absolutely no evolution of the music - once you've heard the first 30 seconds or so, you've heard the entire song. The ending goes on a bit.

"Welcome To This World" starts with the guitar and goes into a kind of chicken style before the inevitable heavy and funky riff kicks in. This one is a bit more complex than in "My Name is Mud", and quite cool really - but the frequent starts and stops are annoying, especially since the music again refuses to develop into anything or reveal anything in it's layers. A tall order really, since there are no depths - it's all surface. Nice, shiny and funky surface - very enjoyable with nice little details - but surface nonetheless and ultimately unsatisfying.

"Bob" begins with a nice flanged bass, and I really can't help thinking of Flea here, even though the style is subtly different. It's a bit like the Chili's slowed down and gone a bit wrong. Interesting, but even the wierd and slightly stodgy changes don't prevent this from having a standard rock song structure. There's still too much repetition - not enough melodic and harmonic development - to be progressive. It's just a bunch of guys having fun, and playing within the safety of existing musical forms and coming up with something that sounds a bit different - but not prog.

This album pans out in the same formulaic lines. The next time we hear anything outside of the formula "Funky bass, Funky Drums, Rap, Guitar noise using intro / verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / verse / chorus /outro bog standard structure" is "Ol' Diamondback Sturgeon (Fisherman's Chronicles, Pt. 3)", in which a single bass riff is used, with guitar improv over the top - a psychedelic/garage approach with no development, just a droning repetition at heart. Minimalism for dummies really, and quite poorly executed.

"Nature Boy" is a return to the safe song form of earlier - no change in style whatsoever, as we might expect from prog. I find it "cool" for the first few bars, but the repetition quickly makes the initial impact fade, and it quickly becomes tired and boring until relief around 2:40, with a welcome change back to the psychedelic jam style that rapidly runs out of ideas and flounders around before predictably returning to the opening ideas, albeit slightly jammed.

"Wounded Knee" starts extremely promisingly with tinkly chimes, xylophone and vibraphone ideas giving a flavour of Gong - particularly the latter part of "Angel's Egg", but without the musical development, as we might expect by now.

The title track is clearly an attempt to be very wierd, but once you've got past the sliding bass lines and precision drums, with plinky guitar, it's all repetition and no development. No progression. No hidden depths.

The repetitive intro to "The Pressman" lets us know exactly what we're in for. Another psychedelia/garage style jam track.

"Hamburger Train" at a little over 8 minutes is what I was looking forward to when I began the review - the length alone had prog promise. But it's just a jam around a bass riff that begins enjoyably and quickly becomes very old.

There are no real surprises to come in any of the other tracks. "Pork Chop's Little Ditty" is a longer and even more poorly executed attempt at a folkish-sounding mandolin piece, and the other tracks do not stand out from the other material.

Fans of Primus will probably lap this up - but for prog, look elsewhere.

Certif1ed | 2/5 |


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