There's a great moment in the Metallica "Behind The Music" episode when
Primus frontman Les Claypool describes what it was like to audition for
the spot of Metallica bassist. I'm sure y'all were as shocked as I was
to hear that Metallica balked at Claypool's suggestion that they "jam on
a couple Isley Brothers tunes" and elected to stay true to the non-funky
speed-metal sound they helped pioneer.
But what if Metallica had decided to hire Claypool and include
Isley Brothers tunes on albums such as Garage Days Revisited and
Garage Inc.? Can you imagine the bouncy funk-rock of "Get Into
Something," "Fight The Power" and "That Lady" sped up and accented by
some brutal Metallica power chords? In 1999, The Year Funk Rock Broke,
this isn't too much of a stretch, but it was unheard of in the early-'80s
metal scene. Claypool deserves some kudos for predating the Korn/ Rage
Against The Machine/ Limp Bizkit sound by more than a decade and for
answering the "Metallica covering the Isley Brothers" question to great
effect on Primus' latest, Antipop.
Not that there's an Isley Brothers cover on here, but there's bass-poppin'
funk aplenty and crushing metal riffs galore. Gone, for the most part,
is the off-and-minor-key prog guitar noodling that typified Primus' past
work; it's been replaced by driving riffs such as those on "The Antipop"
excerpt) and the power-chord horror movie soundtrack that is
"Greet The Sacred Cow." Also taking a vacation are Claypool's Mr.
Magoo-like raps, replaced instead by something like a singing voice
(thankfully not the Cookie Monster metal vocals of groups like the
Deftones and Limp Bizkit) on the soft-then-hard "Mama Didn't Raise No
excerpt) and the foreboding "Electric Uncle Sam" (RealAudio
excerpt), among others. The closest comparison to Claypool's
voice on Antipop is that of "Weird" Al Yankovic nasal,
engaging, shifting from full to thin (or vice versa) in .02 seconds.
Those who truly miss the vocal stylings displayed on Primus hits such as
"Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" and "My Name Is Mud" can get their fixes
from "The Ballad of Bodacious" and the hidden track "The Heckler."
Perhaps the (welcomed and well worth the effort) shift in sound is due
to the outside influences of the Antipop producers and players.
Tom Waits helps out on the, well, Tom Waits-like "Coattails of a Dead
Man," former Police drummer Stewart Copeland gives "Dirty Drowning Man"
a lost-Synchronicity-track feel, and Tom Morello of Rage Against
The Machine and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit help up the relevance quotient
with the tight and driving funk rock of "Electric Uncle Sam," "Mama
Didn't Raise No Fool, "Power Mad" (Morello) and "Lacquer Head" (Durst).
Also chipping in are Metallica's James Hetfield and former Faith No More
guitarist Jim Martin on the very Pink Floydesqe "Eclectic Electric," a
slightly overindulgent, nine-minute psychedelic metal epic with bass
straight out of "Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2." "South Park" co-creator
Matt Stone does a bang-up job with "Natural Joe," while Tricky vocalist
Martina is underutilized on "Dirty Drowning Man" and "Coattails of a
There's no reason to doubt Claypool's assertion on the song "Antipop"
that he'll "run against the drain 'till the day [he] drop[s]." For whatever
reason, Primus fans and the band have long been proud of proclaiming
"Primus Sucks." With Antipop, not much has changed. They still
suck, but now they suck hard.