If you were to ask a room of Primus fans what thier favourite Primus album was it would probably be a close run-in between between 1989’s major lable debut ‘Frizzle Fry’ and 1991’s cult classic ‘Sailing the Seas Of Cheese’. Whilst your avergae iTuner may not have heard of Primus that doesn’t make their contribution to alternative music any more or less significant. To cut a long story short, Primus have found a good middle ground in terms of alternative music, making original enough material to become the only band to have their own genre on Limewire (namely ‘Primus’) whilst still having millions of fans worldwide and, perhaps most gratifyingly, a sense of humour both about their music and evident in their music.
Sailing the Seas of Cheese is seen by those who know it as a peak of diversity, as ever the album is led by Les Claypool’s funky, chordal, angular basslines, fueled by Tim Alexander’s powerful beats and -as much as anything else- decorated by Larry Lalonde’s manic technical guitar playing. The album opens with a typical Primus opening track to set the tone for the album. Ok so very few (sober) people will hear track 1 ‘Seas Of Cheese’ and erupt with laughter but it sets the tone for what is in places a work of comic genius. The next song ‘Here Come The Bastards’ is a gradual build up of multiple guitar and basslines with a choppy staccato riff that is so very Primus in many ways and ends frantically leading into ‘Sgt. Baker’ a monologue wwritten from the point of view of an army sergeant who is -for wont of a better phrase- a bit of an arsewhole. In this song as in the next the funky inventiveness of Les Claypool’s bass playing stands out; ‘American Life’ is a rhetoric about certain negative aspects of American life set to a backdrop of an atmospheric basslines with a gradual build up of the other instruments with something of a cresendo to top it all off.
Claypool’s penchant for extended conceptual introductions to songs seems to more or less desert him for track 5 ‘Jerry Was a Racecar Driver’; the crazy tapping bassline is straight to the point and the song itself is a briliant mix of the musically amazing and the lyrically absurd. Track 7 and Track 9 are definately highlights for fans of slap bass. ‘Tommy The Cat’ goes down as one of the better basslines of all time whereas ‘Is It Luck’ is a unique assault on the D and G strings. Track 11 ‘Those Damned Blue Collared Tweekers’ became famous when it was used in a compilation of the momentous Woodstock festival of the 90s. The bass solo in this version isnt quite as spectacular but this is nonetheless a stroke of obscure brilliance. ‘Fish On’ is the penultimate track and is once based around an experimental bassline forming the type of track that takes a while to grow but is now one my favourites on the album. The album concludes how it began ‘Los Bastardos’ is a reworking of ‘Here Come The Bastards’ once more ending in organised (or maybe not) chaos.
It is hard for me to be entirely objective about my favourite album by a band that I love, however I am well aware of the grievances many people have with Primus. Their tendancy to lose the plot is less evident here than in many other albums and though Les Claypool is no Donny Osmond, his vocal melodies are at their most accesible on this album. This is an album I would strongly recommend for anyone wanting to dip into the alternative. Its not for fans of Britney but it is for anyone who can appreciate brilliant musicianship and the absurd, crazy and at time hilarious antics the Primus have become so well loved for.