Primus — Sailing the Seas of Cheese

Some things you just have to leave in your youth.

I was eleven years old when Top Gun was released.  My friends and I, we loved Top Gun.  Because we were eleven.  Then you watch it again about fifteen years later and realize it’s actually crap.  Horrible.  And strangely, deeply homoerotic, which at eleven my friends and I weren’t sophistocated enough to figure out.  Then again, maybe some of my friends did know.

The point here is that Primus’ Sailing the Seas of Cheese is somewhat similar.  It’s an album I latched onto when I was seventeen, doing seventeen year-old things, and dear lord was I into Primus for about a year and a half.  Thing is, it’s not a very good album at all.  Maybe I figured this out around twenty, and that’s why I haven’t listened to it straight through in so long.  

Primus was the sort of band that, if you were an experimental high school kid (not experimental in the Top Gun way, mind you), you could easily latch onto.  It sounded like nothing else, and Les Claypool’s bass skills and quirky sense of humor made for great fun.  For a while.  The problem is that the formula became formulaic quick, and Seas of Cheese didn’t have nearly as much charm as its predecessor, Frizzle Fry. 

Granted, “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” is still a fun song, and “Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweakers” is so good you’d like to hear a better band cover it.  But in retrospect, “Tommy the Cat” is poorly delivered by guest Tom Waits, and “Sgt. Baker” is petulant and childish.  Also, and this is a problem endemic to all Primus albums, it’s half filler.  Intro songs, outro songs, pointless near-instrumentals, almost every form of filler finds its way onto this record.

And as you sit and listen to it again, you realize that Claypool’s vocals are more grating than amusing.  And the guitar work isn’t intentionally sloppy, it’s just sloppy.  You realize that the whole thing was gimmicky.  You realize that Primus wasn’t a very good band.


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