Primus - Tales From the Punchbowl
Progressive Rock
13 songs (54:05)
Release year: 1995
Primus, Interscope
Reviewed by Crash
Archive review

What could you say about Primus that wouldn’t be redundant? The band has spent the better part of twenty years churning out a sound that is all their own. Sure, people can say that they were a nineties Zappa, a groovier King Crimson, a funkier Rush and such but in the end they can never be mistaken for another band. It always comes back to Les Claypool, Larry Lalonde, and Tim Alexander and their quirked out take on rock. It always comes back to how weird they are. Most of all, you can’t even mention the band without the words “awesome” and “bassist”.

Indeed, Colonel Claypool’s signature way of attacking the bass has nearly overshadowed the band in the past years as Primus has stuck to the touring route and opted to not write a full record for a whole decade. It’s a shame really, because Claypool has plenty of other projects and while some of them such as Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade and Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains have put out more than excellent records, it still always comes back to Primus. And for the most part it comes down to the albums done before Alexander’s departure. Don’t get me wrong, I love Antipop and The Brown Album, but nothing can compare to those first albums.

Suck on This is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, with all of the songs outside of Jellikit being recorded in the studio, this album is more of a novelty for me. Frizzle Fry and Sailing the Seas of Cheese were both awesome prog rock albums, that kicked some serious ass while doing the extremely hard task of stimulating both the mind and balls.

Then came Pork Soda, which is a mess. Note that this is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary, it’s a work of genius and the eerie and groggy atmosphere is completely contradicted to the absolute tightness of the musicianship.

This long winded shpeal brings me to Tales From the Punchbowl, which is the overlooked gem in the Primus canon. Despite bearing the biggest single the band ever had, it seems to fall to the wayside and lurks in the shadows whenever someone mentions cheese or pork. It’s a shame, because it is easily on par with the rest of the albums and in it’s own way has it’s advantages over the predecessors.

Gone is the drugged out lazy feeling of Pork Soda (Despite my love for that sound). In its place is a combination of all previous albums, but with a new found confidence. They realized which sounds worked for them and go for them. The singles are tighter and catchier while the freak outs transcend mere weirdness into sheer madness.

It would be easy to pick out individual songs. Everybody and their mother has already heard “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” a hundred times and other songs like “Mrs. Blaileen” fit right in with their unique brand of funkiness, but for the most part it is not about individual songs but the entire album as a whole. With little exception, every song digs a little bit deeper into madness from the slow churning of Glass Sandwich to the monstrous riffage of On the Tweek Again. It all culminates in the albums best song and outro, Over the Electric Grapevine, which may be the only Primus song that you could almost use the term “beautiful” to describe it. Something about it sums up the album and the band perfectly and it’s a great send off to the era. <>/p

That being said, if you don’t like Primus, then you would have known by the start that this is not the album for you. But if you are a casual fan, or just like some wacky shit without it being for the sake of it, I full fartedly recommend Tales From the Punchbowl. It may not be an album worth deeming “classic” on this site, but in my eyes it is just another addition to the long list of personal classics that the band has. Let’s just hope that Les stops dicking around with side projects and finally starts working on new material.

Killing Songs :
You'd have to be crazy to not get a kick out of De Anza Jig
Crash quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Primus that we have reviewed:
Primus - Green Naugahyde reviewed by Jake and quoted 89 / 100
Primus - Sailing The Seas Of Cheese reviewed by Goat and quoted 77 / 100
Primus - Frizzle Fry reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
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