SHORTIE’S COLUMN: PRIMUS -Suck On This (1989)

Review by: John Short

primus

The debut outing for Primus is a live album, recorded in February and March of 1989 and documenting one of the earliest shows by what is commonly considered to be the “classic” Primus lineup of Les Claypool on bass, Larry LaLonde on guitar, and Tim Alexander on drums.

And its good! Very good in fact. The band run through a setlist of songs that mostly would be rerecorded in studio a year later with a level of intensity and verve that is shocking if one is only acquainted with the rerecorded studio versions, as I was when I originally bought this album.

The album opens up with a brief cover of Rush’s YYZ before plunging straight into possibly the most famous Primus song, John the Fisherman. This is quite simply one of the catchiest and most memorable tracks to ever spring from the collective minds of Claypool, Lalonde and Alexander, and its bizarre narrative about a boy who dreams of fishing and his ultimate fate never ceases to amuse me. This version of Groundhog’s Day is less engaging to me, perhaps because it is almost identical to the studio version, but it is swiftly surpassed by the next four songs, the only tracks on the album not to have been rerecorded for Frizzle Fry.

The Heckler is an aggressive, jerky, funky song that chronicles the tale of well, a heckler (and describes them in REALLY unflattering terms). It wouldn’t make it to a studio album for almost 10 years, and the eventual studio version of the song is the weaker for this fact.

The Pressman is a slow track, and probably the closest to its studio version of these four, but it is slightly more energetic in this incarnation, so overall I suppose I prefer it to the studio version on Pork Soda.

Jellikit is probably the most interesting track on here, being the only song on the album that was never released on a Primus studio album (Although a radically different studio version recorded around the same time as Pork Soda was featured on the soundtrack to the 1994 comedy Airheads). It’s also possibly the most aggressive, Claypool’s screaming verging on death metal growls during the chorus.

Meanwhile Tommy The Cat is universally considered to be a god-tier Primus classic, but i’ve never been 100% in love with it. This version is superior in energy (and ability to understand the lyrics) but at the end of the day I think I prefer the version with Tom Waits on Sailing The Seas Of Cheese.

The final three songs are almost identical to the studio versions, and so I will postpone discussion of them until the Fizzle Fry to review.

In short, Suck on this is a fine live album and an excellent introduction to Primus as a band. The band displays a fearsome energy that their studio albums only hint at, while the humorous onstage banter (everybody say “Larry you’re a bastard” ) only serves to enrich the experience further. I highly recommend Suck On This, and award it 8/10

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