Forming as an American funk band in El Sobrante, California in 1984, the original members of Primus featured bassist/vocalist Les Claypool, guitarist Todd Huth, and drummer Jay Lane. However, at the end of 1988, Huth and Lane left Primus for other pursuits. Guitarist Leslie “Ler” Lalonde, and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander were their replacements, recording with Claypool their live album, Suck On This, in 1989. It was later followed by four studio albums:
- Fizzle Fry (1990)
- Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991)
- Pork Soda (1993)
- Tales from the Punchbowl (1995)
Come 1996, Alexander admitted he lost interest in continuing his career with Primus and left the band. He was replaced by Bryan “Brain” Mantia as their next drummer. Shortly after joining Primus, together they formed the original theme song for the TV show known as South Park. There were also two more albums released afterward:
- Brown Album (1997)
- Antipop (1999)
From the year 2000 until 2003, Primus took a break as a band. When Claypool, Lalonde, and Alexander reunited, they released an EP and accompanying DVD (Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People). The year 2008 saw a sporadic tour from Primus. Come 2010, Alexander left the band again and was replaced by the returning Lane. Shortly afterward, the seventh album (Green Naugahyde), was released in 2011. Lane leaves Primus a second time in 2013 to focus on other projects. Upon his departure, Alexander joins Primus for the third time. In the process, Claypool creates his own label, Prawn Song Records. Through the label, Primus produces some of their recorded studio albums:
- Primus & The Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble (2014)
- The Desaturating Seven (2017)
Characterized by American music journalists as one of the strangest top-10 bands of all time, Primus has produced some of the quirkiest music throughout their career. Working off a variety of sources that’s listed their own ideas what serves as the best ten songs from Primus, our own list has been worked out as follows;
10. Lacquer Head
From the 1999 album (Antipop), Lacquer Head is its first released single. Primus performs a little story about three children coming to harm due to suffering inhalants. It was banned from MTV who saw the lyrics as inappropriate due to its disturbing subject matter, despite the fact the focus of the song was about the consequences of substance abuse. The song was encouraged by Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst for Primus to return to the earlier sounds the band is best known for.
9. Harold of the Rocks
At a lengthy 6:18, Harold of the Rocks by Primus comes from their first and only live album (Suck On This), which was released in 1989. A clear standout from their record, this song serves as a taste of things to come from the talent pool that has come, gone, and stayed throughout Primus’ music career. While it may not be classified as a commercial favorite, this song shows the band’s grassroots at its finest.
8. Eclectic Electric
Many fans of Primus compare this piece having a “Pink Floydish” feel to it. Coming from their 1999 album (Antipop), Eclectic Electric is described as an expansive, delay-petal piece designed to blow chemical-addled minds at music festivals.
7. Shake Hands With Beef
1997’s, Shake Hands With Beef (from Brown Album) was the first single to be released from it. A Primus trademark, the humorous lyrics purposely sound out of place compared to the more serious musical tone the instruments involved play. The funk style of play coming from the bass line, which has become a Claypool trademark.
6. Too Many Puppies (Frizzle Fry)
1990 sees the first studio album (Frizzle Fry) from Primus. The album’s cover song (Too Many Puppies) introduces fans to the band’s zany sense of humor, all played out in musical format with their funky, innovative style. Sounding like a crazy cartoon character, Claypool’s lyrics seemed to inspire the band known as Korn to bring forth their song (Blind). Many fans and music critics still feel to this day Korn’s song was a blatant ripoff from Primus’ intro going into their Frizzle Fry/Too Many Puppies song.
5. American Life
Sailing the Seas of Cheese features the song American Life. Released in 1991, Primus delivers a funk beat with a very disciplined sense of rhythm. Unlike some of their more playful songs, American Life is more topical as it covers the issues of US immigration. This song reached the 116th spot on the US Billboard’s Top 200.
4. Making Plans for Nigel
Reaching #30 on the US Alternative Airplay charts, Making Plans for Nigel comes from the album (Miscellaneous Debris) which was released in 1992. The song originally was written and performed in 1979 by the British rock band known as XTC. The version coming from Primus is arguably considered a favorite among their music fans who consider Claypool as a genius.
3. Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Coming from their 1991 album (Sailing the Seas of Cheese), Jerry Was a Race Car Driver reaches #23 on the US Alternative Airplay charts. This was the first radio single released by Primus that hit the airwaves. Featuring the virtuous base work by Claypool, as he delivers a few octaves above conventional rock templates, carrying the main musical riff while the guitar is mainly considered as seasoning.
2. My Name Is Mud
In 1993, My Name Is Mud peaked on the US Alternative Airplay charts at #9. Coming from the album (Pork Soda) this song serves as a piece of perfection from the irreverent music style Primus is trademarked for. The sternum-rattling, slap-bass intro, combined with the squealing dissonant guitar solo, and loopy lyrics, plays out this irreverent expression of poignant underclass solidarity.
1. Winona’s Big Brown Beaver
The song (and music video) serves as the primary reason why the well-known music journalist and essayist, Robert Christgau, classified Primus as “quite possibly the strangest top-10 band ever and good for them.”