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Primus - Suck on This CD (album) cover




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3.51 | 46 ratings

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3 stars It's hard to believe the popular turbo-funk trio of Primus had such a humble beginning, scraping together enough borrowed cash (from bass player / band leader Les Claypool's father) to pay for this live album, recorded in Berkeley, California, in early 1989.

For anyone not familiar with the wonderful, wacky world of Primus, try to imagine (and the best of luck) a misbegotten stepchild of THE RESIDENTS and RUSH. The concert even begins with a note-perfect crib of the agitated opening to the Rush instrumental 'YYZ', in retrospect an immediate validation of the band's performance skills, but on first exposure making me wonder if I had the right CD. And Claypool's debt to the Residents, which goes beyond his adenoidal twang and deadpan esoteric humor, would later be acknowledged by a cover of the tunes 'Hello Skinny' and 'Constantinople' on the reissue of the trio's first studio album, recorded soon after this gig and featuring many of the same songs.

Claypool's hyperactive handling of his bass guitar hadn't yet reached the heights of nimble virtuosity he would later be renowned for (the band was only three months old at the time). But the set introduced several early Primus standards, including 'John the Fisherman', 'Harold of the Rocks', and the impressive motor-mouth narrative of 'Tommy the Cat'. A quick digression: how the hell does Claypool manage to speak even halfway coherently while slapping his bass with such pinpoint enthusiasm?

And his stage presence is already disarmingly offbeat. "We're Primus; we suck!" he cheerfully announces at one point. Elsewhere he invites the audience to harass guitarist Larry LaLonde, and they happily comply ("Larry, you're a bastard!")

The album was barely produced at all, and the take-it-or-leave-it sound is the antithesis of Progressive Rock's over-reliance on studio ornamentation and instrumental overkill. In point of fact the entire attitude of the fledgling band is more Punk (or at least more Alt Rock) than Prog. Name me one GENESIS song-story in which the characters are casually dismissed as "a couple of dumb sh*ts"?

I would hesitate to even include Primus on a web site devoted to Progressive Rock...on the other hand I might never have heard them otherwise (so, thanks!) 'Suck On This' may not be the best introduction to the band, but their only live album (so far) remains an essential step for affirmed fans.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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