Primus is a band that is very hard to pigeonhole. Their punk and funk elements are used to showcase their incredible musicianship, which is led by the legendary bass playing of Les Claypool.
But what are the best Primus songs from this brilliant band? Well, that’s what I wanted to unearth here.
Let’s take a closer look at these weird and wonderful musicians.
1. Jerry Was A Race Car Driver
In typical Primus fashion, this song is really weird. The main riff is kind of comedic but also sinister in a way. In the second half when it gets heavier, it hits hard. It makes sense since this is the story of an intoxicated driver getting into a terrible car accident.
It will always be a mystery to me how Claypool manages to sing and play what he plays at the same time. Most bass parts are usually simple and boring but this is Primus. Their basslines are insane and yet Claypool just makes it look easy.
2. John The Fisherman
“John the Fisherman” was the first single from the band and was originally released back in 1989 on their live album Suck on This before being included on their Frizzle Fry studio album a year later. It was the first song many heard from the band and remains one of the best Primus songs.
As the title suggests, this is a song all about fishing. Claypool himself has said that fishing was his most common weekend activity with his father growing up and that he wrote this song years before it was recorded because he wanted to “write what he knew.”
3. My Name is Mud
Talk about an unsettling song. Claypool knows just how to get inside your head with his weird vocals and weird rhythms, and this song sounds like a classic tale set in the middle of nowhere in the vast US, where a blue-collar man, Mud, is insulted by a fellow worker’s poor treatment of his leather shoes.
They are the only respectable thing he feels he has left in the world, and so he kills the man and now struggles to bury him. The way the story is delivered is both funny and disturbing, in typical Primus fashion.
4. Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver
I think only in the 90s could a song like this have been as big a hit as it was. This song is about some mythological beaver who bites strangers and eats Taco Bell. This, of course, is intended to be taken as a metaphor for another thing of Wynona’s which you can work out yourself if you don’t already know.
Claypool has always been a “lead bass” type of player, and I think no Primus song represents that more than this one. The guitar is almost buried in the mix because of how prominent those bass triplets are which is common with the best Primus songs.
5. American Life
This song lyrically hits hard. Claypool doesn’t get political super often, but this is an exception. The tale of three male individuals living what he refers to as “the American Life,” which includes harsh living conditions, little to no money, impending doom, and an illusion that better things are coming soon.
For once, this song is more of a guitar showcase than bass. Claypool takes a back seat and lets Larry LaLonde solo his way from verse to verse. It’s one of the best Primus songs for those looking for some lyrical depth.
6. Too Many Puppies
This is a very serious song about the exploitation of young men by the US armed forces in order to maintain a monopoly on oil and make the fat-rich men richer while innocent children who are trained to obey are killed by other children who are likely trained to obey under even harsher conditions.
The scary thing about this song is that it was inspired by the first Iraq war in 1990. It sadly managed to stay relevant for the next three decades and probably will be relevant again in the future.
7. Tommy The Cat
You haven’t heard weird until you’ve heard “Tommy the Cat.” Truly, this song is insane and almost incomprehensible. I can’t help but wonder how it became so incredibly popular in the early 90s, Claypool had to introduce every song during live shows as “not ‘Tommy the Cat’”
It’s difficult to understand pretty much everything about this song, but I think it may be about a man past his prime yearning for the days when getting women was way easier for him. Those scatting and jazzy notes help to make this crazy song so good.
8. Have A Cigar
Primus was not the first band I thought of when thinking of who could cover Pink Floyd. Then again, a more traditional prog band would probably just re-record the original version, and that’s not as much fun.
Surprisingly, though, the band stays faithful to the original version as it’s an adaptation and not a remake. It still has their typical bass-forward mix and Les Claypool’s hillbilly vocal tone, but it’s not so different as to make us wonder what song it is.
9. Welcome To This World
I feel this is the song that inspired the cover of the album it comes from, 1993’s Pork Soda. It’s another wacky song with that loopy bass groove. It just fits perfectly onto the album and is a sort of satirical welcome into show business.
The lyrics are very deep and we even get some Shakespeare references that talk about those who stand idly by in the face of evil. It’s one of the best Primus songs from the Pork Soda album and another example of why I love them so much.
10. Lacquer Head
This song’s music video was banned from MTV for drug references and depictions of violence. This Fred Durst-produced tune came at a time when Primus was at the height of their power, but also about to suffer a massive creative slump.
Limp Bizkit’s front man’s contributions include pushing the band into embracing their heavier roots that had been put aside during their growth in the 90s. What we ended up with is one of the best Primus songs and another lyrically heavy track.
Alex is a man of many talents. He’s been playing music since he was young, and has been the main content writer at Tone Start for the past few years. Alex loves to play around with different styles of music and enjoys listening to anything from country to classical.