The A&R Man Clappeth

Primus heavy, funky kook

When NoCal trio Primus played their A&R man a rough version of "Electric Uncle Sam," a track from their latest album, Antipop, the A&R man reportedly did something he'd never done before when listening to a Primus song: he clapped.

Now, you tell me: Is this not a sign that your music has turned to shit? Horrid, runny, drippy, fetid, watered-down, non-offensive, heard-it-all-before, soothingly bland, stanky-safe crapola?

More rumors from the A&R front: when Primus' Les Claypool was searching for a producer, he asked the aforementioned A&R man, "Who's the George Martin and Brian Eno of today?" So how did Claypool start there and wind up with Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst (the man behind such stirring fare as "Nookie"—stick it up your yeah!) as the answer? Of course, Durst didn't produce the whole thing. Claypool ended up with a passel of artists producing separate tracks, such as Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Waits, Police drummer Stewart Copeland and South Park co-creator Matt Stone (a huge Primus fan who enlisted the band to play his show's theme song, which you've surely heard).

Despite ingredients that should have produced an album that sucks—Durst, label approval, etc.—Antipop somehow doesn't. It is instead another Primus album brimming with quirky, funky, at times downright weird tunes. It's definitely not music for the assimilated (in fact, it just might be music for dorky, be-zitted, young, creative lads looking to expand on their collection of Rush CDs).

But that's how it's always been with Primus, playing to a small but incredibly loyal following since forming 16 years ago until now, nine albums and EPs later, when they're still playing to a small but incredibly loyal following. Part of it probably has to do with Claypool's choice of instrument, the bass, that snarling, growly, four-stringed behemoth whose true soul and spirit have been best captured in such heart-tugging works as a Pringles commercial and the theme song to Seinfeld. The bass is just not emotive in its staccato percussiveness. Not that persuasive in its low rumble. Not that melodic in its complete lack of melody. Still, Claypool should be regarded as nothing short of a bass genius. It's just unfortunate that bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers—slap-bass-heavy, funky, kooky devils that they are—left a coating of cheesiness over all that is slap-bass-heavy, funky and kooky.

Oh, well. Claypool probably doesn't care. He once told me that he was the one kid in school who wanted to grow up and become a clown. Always a rebel, Claypool makes his attitude clear in a line on his latest disc's title track, a sort of mission statement: "I am the Antipop/I'll run against the grain till the day I drop."

Primus plays at the Sun Theatre, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2700. Fri., Feb. 4, 8 p.m. $23-$25. All ages.
 
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