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Primus Tales From The Punchbowl album cover
3.91 | 138 ratings | 11 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1995

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Professor Nutbutter's House Of Treats (7:13)
2. Mrs. Blaileen (3:20)
3. Wynona's Big Brown Beaver (4:24)
4. Southbound Pachyderm (6:22)
5. Space Farm (1:45)
6. Year Of The Parrot (5:45)
7. Hellbound 17 ˝ (Theme From) (2:59)
8. Glass Sandwich (4:05)
9. Del Davis Tree Farm (3:23)
10. De Anza Jig (2:26)
11. On The Tweek Again (4:41)
12. Over The Electric Grapevine (6:25)
13. Captain Shiner (1:15)

Total time 54:03

Line-up / Musicians

- Les Claypool / vocals, basses (fretted, 6-string, fretless, upright, banjo)
- Larry LaLonde / guitar, 6-string banjo
- Tim "Herb" Alexander / drums

Releases information

CD Interscope Records ‎- 92553-2 (1995, US)

2xLP Interscope Records ‎- 92553-1 (1995, US) Different cover art

Thanks to Retrovertigo for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy PRIMUS Tales From The Punchbowl Music

PRIMUS Tales From The Punchbowl ratings distribution

(138 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

PRIMUS Tales From The Punchbowl reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Hangedman
4 stars Don't listen to this expecting standard art rock. Lead bass lines (from easily one of the best bassists in the world), either very aggressive or very silly sounding, and the vocals are used for theatrical purposes. The sound is very similar to 80's King Crimson, but unpolished and with a nearly deranged edge. Despite lyrically the songs being just as silly, the songs themselves seem more focused and less experimental resulting in something more listenable. The humor is still a strong factor in the album (which should be apparent from the song title "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver"). The overall combination will still take some getting used to even with a higher level of listenability, but still an excellent listen start to finish.

Stylistically this album is flawless. Primus have managed to capture their crazy muscianmanship focused nonsense that makes them very good and original and package it in a strong hard hitting rock album. It just doesn't have the extra push of a brilliant concept, or perfect flow an album needs to be a masterpiece.

Once again Primus impresses with brilliant and silly instrument acrobatics. They can be described musically as a massive plodding creature with a good sense of humor and flare. The chest shaking bass propelling the band forward, the drums keeping time, and the guitar providing the extra push needed to get moving. Once you start getting into this bands groove it becomes very difficult to focus on anything else.

This album opens with a real bang. "Professor Nutbutter's House Of Treats" provides not only a proper introduction to the album, but is most likely one of the best openers of all time. Every time those drums sticks come down you can feel it all over your body. You can barely hear Les Claypool's strange singing over the loud blare of instruments. "Space Farm" is a strange song, and is the band making animal noises to a simple and depraved bass line. "Captain Shiner" is the only truly weak track, it only manages to be irritating while trying to be an appropriate closer. Which is a shame because it was opened so brilliantly.

This is a great introduction to Primus, and also probably their most "prog" output in the traditional sense. Contains everything a Primus album should, and some nice hooks for the unfortunate uninitiated to get interested in and ultimately discover the rewarding intricacies held within the songs. A must for fans of 80's King Crimson, or big fans of the early nineties alternative movement.

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a weird band !

Primus is a band that i knew several years ago, in fact this album was my introduction to them, since then i like it so much.

I`m a bassist, so i have been always familiarized with Les Claypool and his works (among other bass players of course), he has a very particular style, im still impressed because of the way he plays, also he can sing at the same time!!, but well, this is not a Les Claypool`s review, but i have to start saying that he is who makes Primus very special.

I dont know exactly what kind of music do they play, it is so strange and weird, it could be Art Rock, Experimental Music, even Alternative Rock, i dont really know, but what i know is that they are a great band with their original and particular sound. Tales From the Punchbowl in my oppinion is an excellent album, because of the blend of ideas, the imagination to create great strange songs, with a bit funny sound, with power in some songs , but i repeat, the best is their unique style, because not only Claypool has his own style, also Herb Alexander is a great drummer, and the guitarist (i dont remember his name) is also nice.

A clear example of what Primus are, is the first song, first of all we can notice the strange name of it "Professor Nutbutter`s House of Treats", which start with a "circus" sound, then the song is progressing, making a strong and powerful sound, with the bass as the instruments "leader" (believe me, the bass is simply awesome, he can do things and sounds that we cannot imagine, it seems to be so difficult for an amateur like me, but he does it so easy, what a man), returning to the point, this song is weird, its almost perfect, if you dont want the album, at least look for this song.

"Wynona`s Big Brown Beaver" , im sure it is the most well known song here, it is a classic Primus`song, and it is also great, maybe short, but anyway we can notice and appreciate the skill , so many good passages in one short song.

"Southbound Pachyderm", oh man, another excellent song, this time over 6 minutes, it could be a bit repetitive, but it has some strage and obscure mood, maybe one of the best songs here, great arrangements, and maybe the darkest of them all, (check time and tempo changes)

"De Anza Jig", is another nice song, but in fact it could be funny, because it has a clear country sound, (Les Claypool also plays Banjo, and very well), i can imagine myself in an old town enjoying this ound, banjo, bass and vocals, great again, for these kind of particular things, im saying that Primus has their unique style, they are not trying to experiment, they create!

"Over the Electric Grapevine" is another excellent song, this time i like a lot the work of the drummer, you can listen to this song here in PA.

After all, i love this album , i have always love it, and im afraid i will. Not truly a progressive masterpiece, but im sure it could be an excellent addition to any prog lover, but remember one thing, this is not so easy to dig.

So 4 stars !

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Primus' final studio effort with Tim Alexander on the kit (for eight years, as they would reunite in 2003) is easily on par with their first two studio albums (not including Suck on This, which was live) Frizzle Fry and Sailing the Seas of Cheese. This album, titled Sailing the Seas of Cheese, would also prove to be one of Primus' most experimental albums. This album would also yield two of the best songs in the Primus catalogue in Wynona's Big Brown Beaver and the Crimsonian Southbound Pachyderm, which are in my opinion two of the greatest songs released in the 90s. Surrounding those two songs (which are in the beginning of the album) are a mixture of varying influences and ideas, yet they don't get too ambitious with the variety, which is a good thing.

Since there are an abundant amount of tracks, I'll talk about the ones that were really mindblowing for me. The album opens with Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats, which is a very industrial sounding track with droning and relentlessly heavy chords rounding out a main rhythm (it sounds somewhat similar to the song The Big Dance off of Alex Lifeson's solo album Victor, which had Claypool on bass). Fantastic and a bit of a longer piece for the group, running just a tad over 7 minutes. Wynona's Big Brown Beaver is a bit of a rockier piece that has a rockabilly feel to it. It also shows a definite Zappa influence in the massive use of double entendres in the lyrics. There's a nice banjo solo in there from LeLonde as well. Southbound Pachyderm is easily the best song on the album and probably the most progressive piece as well. It invokes a definite King Crimson feel with the dissonance in the chord progressions and the chaotic ending sections (which sounds like something out of Thrak, actually). Claypool's bass on this track, and the atmospheric intro (which takes up about two minutes) is a perfect opener as well. If I would recommend one song by Primus to you, it would be this one.

Year of the Parrot has a great 7/4 main rhythm and some superb drumming from Tim Alexander and a nice rubbery bass pattern from Claypool as well as some cool lyrics and vocals, the lyrics talk about ripping of riffs from Led Zeppelin, but they call it plagiarism. De Anza Jig (a reference to the high school Claypool attended, De Anza High School) is a bit of a country piece with a nice banjo line from both LeLonde and Claypool as well as a desolate atmosphere of being in the wild west, truly fantastic piece if you ask me. Over the Electric Grapevine is another one of the longer pieces on the album (along with Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats and Southbound Pachyderm), this one running a little over 6 minutes. It shows more experimental overtones from the group yet the core of the song is relatively unchanged. The bass on this track is superb when coupled with the zany guitar mayhem and the superb and precision drumming (Alexander really seems to hold the band together during the really zany and hectic sections). The rest of the tracks are very good as well, yet these pieces I just described are the best the album has to offer. The only song that is a bit of a letdown is the ending Captain Shiner, which doesn't really do anything except add to the overall length of the album.

In the end, I think if you're going to get any Primus album, I'd recommend this along with Frizzle Fry and Sailing the Seas of Cheese. This album is Primus at their zaniest, Primus at their most original, and most importantly, Primus at arguably their career peak. They haven't made an album since that has surpassed the quality and creativity that can be found in this one, and I can see why, this album is just fantastic from first second to last. That said, there are a few tracks that are a bit of a let down (like Captain Shiner), the most notable being Space Farm. Other than that, though, you can't go wrong with this one. 4.5/5.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars When I'm in the right mood, this is sometimes my favorite Primus album. And not just because it managed to piss off Winona Ryder and her (at the time) idiot boyfriend from Soul Asylum. Where "Pork Soda" would get tedious by the end of the album, this one, with plenty of diversity, remains fun from start to finish.

The best part, like on any Primus album, is Les Claypool's manic bass slapping. Somehow, he has managed, in a world with thousands, if not millions of bass players, to create a style that sets him apart from all other bassists. Guitarist Larry LaLonde reminds me somewhat of Captain Beefheart, with angular, but very interesting licks.

My favorite song has got to be Wynona's Big Brown Beaver. But honorable mention goes to Glass Sandwich. There was once a rumor that Claypool was one of The Residents (he was eleven when their first album was released), mostly because his singing voice is eerily similar to one of the eyeball guys. But this song sounds like it could have been on one of The Residents' classic albums. I bet he did that on purpose.

Review by Neu!mann
4 stars Les Claypool is an American original. His bass guitar should be carved on the face of Mount Rushmore, maybe replacing the dainty pince-nez of that old Imperialist Teddy Roosevelt. And his band Primus likewise deserves to be recognized as a National Treasure, especially during a sillier-than-usual election season. Perhaps the GOP can adopt the song "Southbound Pachyderm" for their national presidential convention in Tampa this summer.

Political kidding aside, the band's 1995 album is vintage Primus. There aren't too many bands able to perform songs with titles like "Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats" and still be considered credible musicians. On the other hand, how did such an irreverent group of dedicated misfits earn a page on a web site devoted to the high-minded aspirations of Progressive Rock?

Claypool likes to present his songs as if they were carnival side-show attractions, full of geeks, freaks, and blabbermouth barkers. But there's nothing funny about the invigorating industrial funk of "Mrs. Blaileen" or the aforementioned "Professor Nutbutter" (except of course for the deadpan perversity of the lyrics). Listen to guitarist Larry LaLonde's Fripp-like runs in "Year of the Parrot" and "On the Tweek Again", or to the Lark's Tongues intensity of the rising chords in "Over the Electric Grapevine", and then ask yourself if this isn't a trio of closet Progheads in Alt Rock drag.

The tasty "Glass Sandwich" offers a clue to what THE RESIDENTS might have sounded like with virtuoso chops. And the expected white-trash stomp is represented by the "De Anza Jig": a banjo-driven parody of suburban backwoods Americana (the song is named after Claypool's Richmond, California, high school), and referencing both the Jack-In-The- Box and Taco Bell junk food franchises.

And then of course there's "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver", arguably the most irresistible song in the Progarchives database about a girl's troubled relationship with her (pet?) beaver. Actress Winona Ryder reportedly took offense at what she considered some barbed double-entendres, which to me sounds like a case of Tinsel Town paranoia. The song might be a Marin County outlaw taking random potshots at a local Petaluma celebrity, but it's hard to see any real connection: after all, the lyrics make no mention of shoplifting arrests or an iffy big screen résumé (there is, however, another nod to Taco Bell...)

Judge for yourself. And then by all means listen to the rest of the album too. It may not resemble anything like traditional Prog Rock, but the undeniable skill, invention, and even the iconoclastic low-brow humor locates the Primus trio in a class all their own.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars 'Tales from the Punchbowl' is the fourth full length studio album from Primus and the last of the 4 great album run they had. This is also the last album to have Tim Alexander on drums until 7 years later when he rejoined the band. Said by many critics and fans alike, this is one of the band's best albums with some great vintage Primus cuts that are essential for all Primus fans.

Where the previous album 'Pork Soda' was dark and heavy, this album has more of a variety making it more enjoyable to listen to from start to finish, much more along the lines of 'Sailing the Seas of Cheese'. The happiness of the album is apparent from the beginning as soon as the fairground music starts at the beginning of 'Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats' and the upbeat sounds of the crazy quirkiness of Primus' music, not the morose heaviness of the previous album, but with all the punch of wild guitar, bass and drums along with some variation in the overall tone so you are not just getting bogged down with the thick sound all of the time. And, at over 7 minutes, this track has plenty of room to breathe with a long instrumental explosion of swirling guitar.

The mid tempo quirkiness shows through on 'Mrs. Blaileen' and then the hilarious hijinx of the very fast tempo and toe tapping 'Winona's Big Brown Beaver' that later turns into another whirlwind of unrelenting guitar, bass and drums. I don't know how this song just doesn't make everyone happy with its giddy chaotic feel. What else could follow this than the dark and mysterious and heavier 'Southbound Pachyderm'. Even with it's darker sound, it still moves along with a persistent rhythm and many outbursts of guitar which helps build its tension. It's one of my favorite Primus tracks. This is followed by 'Space Farm' a series of barnyard noises against a background of spacey effects and a churning bass, a silly filler material track.

'Year of the Parrot' is a little less memorable, but is a mid-tempo track that has a heavy industrial feel, Primus style. 'Hellbound 17 ' (Theme from)' has that more prehistoric, minimal feel with a pounding drum, plucked bass and guitar with a fast beat, and only a few vocals. It gets crazier as it goes racing along. 'Glass Sandwich' utilizes a quick strummed riff with quick notes later and bowed bass. The vocal melody and bass is more sustained and works well in contrast to the fast moving guitar and drums. 'Del Davis Tree Farm' has another great riff during the heavier chorus with the typical heavy bass and funky, chiming guitars with the complex drumming patterns. 'De Anza Jig' sounds like a polka with the bass sounding like a tuba and a banjo. Such a happy song with plenty of weirdness.

'On the Tweek Again' starts with a solid beat and Les' falsetto The screeching guitar comes in from time to time, but the first few verses is backed by the bass and thumping drum. 'Over the Electric Grapevine' is a great Primus rocker which will get the crowds a jumpin' at the concert with the percussive instrumental section. This ends with a reprise of 'De Anza Jig' under the guise of a track called 'Captain Shiner'

A lot of people think that Primus is weird, but it's their chaotic weirdness that makes them so wonderful. Of course they are inspired by The Residents and King Crimson among others, but they are also extremely talented and have made their style their own. I love their satirical take on everything, and then they surround it with a bare minimum of instruments, but create such a complex explosion of sound and style unlike anything else out there. Primus will always be one of my favorite bands, and for those that wonder, is precisely where I got my 'handle' from. People always ask me what TCat stands for, well, if you are a Primus fan, you should know, but most people just look at me blankly when I mention Primus. That's alright though because their music always makes me happy for whatever reason, mainly because I love their quirkiness and originality. And this is one of their best albums, so how can I not give it 5 stars.

Latest members reviews

4 stars With their fourth album, 'Tales from the Punchbowl', Primus have finally managed to channel all their talent into something somewhat akin to a cohesive rock album. Taking their unusual style of offbeat, alternative funk rock and applying it in a more traditional rock setting, Primus have managed ... (read more)

Report this review (#1789372) | Posted by martindavey87 | Saturday, September 30, 2017 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I've heard many people praise this album very highly, but it is by far my least favorite Primus album. I only like about 5 songs on the whole thing; some are downright annoying, such as Mrs. Blaileen. Now Wynona's Big Brown Beaver is one of their best songs, more so for the lyrics than the musi ... (read more)

Report this review (#194529) | Posted by evantate09 | Saturday, December 20, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Cartoon Rock Blending everything from the qiurkiness of Frank Zappa , the heaviness of post 80`s Crimson, the precision of Rush, and even a sprinkle of Tom Waits ( Larry Lalonde even guests on the latest Tom Waits CD, The Orphan Files) Tales From The Punch Bowl is silly and brilliant. This m ... (read more)

Report this review (#99841) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Tuesday, November 21, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This one was my second Primus album. I have to say that when i first heard it (after Sailing Seas of Cheese) i was deeply dissapointed. It is a weird sounding album indeed, but this is a turn off just in the begining. After giving it some time of listening with an opend mind, it turned to be ... (read more)

Report this review (#47721) | Posted by | Thursday, September 22, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This kind of album is the perfect blend between art rock, prog rock and avant-garde. The sound is quite obvious, is PRIMUS, the nutty silly vocals and the very deep bass phrases, with distorted and dissonant guitars and the most edgy and well crafted drums in the bussines... now, this record i ... (read more)

Report this review (#42112) | Posted by arqwave | Monday, August 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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