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They Can't All Be Zingers
Interscope Records

It's a rare thing in music to follow your own path, remain unconventional, and still find widespread acceptance and commercial success. Primus is one example of this rare specimen, which also just happens to demonstrate amazing musical talent. The most familiar lineup of the trio included Les Claypool (Bass), Larry "Ler" Lalonde (Guitar) and Tim "Herb" Alexander (drums). The current lineup includes drummer Brian "Brain" Mantia. Starting out in Northern California in the mid-80s, they didn't have to wait decades for success. By 1993, they had a few albums under their belt, had scored a gold record with Sailing The Seas Of Cheese, and were headlining the Lollapalooza tour. This all happened with little radio airplay, and waves of fans shouting "You Suck" at their shows. You don't have to listen to them very long before developing either a hatred, or longtime devotion to their offbeat mix of rock/funk/metal with cartoon character vocals. Joe Gore of Guitar Player magazine noted what he called "the Primus paradox: if your music is really uncommercial, you can sell a ton of records." In recent years, the inevitable side projects have seen Claypool in groups like Frog Brigade and Oysterhead, even as Primus continues its occasional tours.

The latest compilation offering from Primus is called They Can't All Be Zingers. The first thing to hit me was the visual concept and packaging of the CD. It's made to look like a package of Kraft Singles, with the Track list included in the Nutrition Facts on the reverse. After removing the plastic outer wrapper, the CD and case have the appearance of a stack of cheesy singles. As the wrapper states, it's "16 Slices of Creamy Audio Goodness." The 16 slices will walk you through their discography from Frizzle Fry (1990), to their DVD bonus CD Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People (2003).

Criticizing a compilation CD is like criticizing a live show. Other than the performance itself, everyone has their own opinion of the merits of the set list. From what I see in Zingers, they have hit most of the well known, as well as a few lesser known gems. From Frizzle Fry, they included "Too Many Puppies", but a notable MIA is "Harold Of The Rocks". There was a stretch of albums from 1993 to 1997 with Pork Soda, Tales From The Punchbowl and The Brown Album that seemed to produce one commercial hit, and generally weaker efforts with the remaining tracks. For these albums, they had the obligatory offerings, and I have no complaints. I believe they could have offered more from Antipop (1999). This production had many collaborators, including Stewart Copeland, James Hetfield, Fred Durst and even Matt Stone of South Park fame. The result was still inescapably Primus, but even more eclectic than their fans are used to. This compilation could easily have included 3 or 4 songs, versus the lone offering of "Coattails Of A Dead Man".

Overall, They Can't All Be Zingers hits the intended target; it's another quality compilation to generate some revenue for the band. Along with their current tour, the cash they raise this year should help finance many a Claypool side project to come. I think that's a very good thing for anyone that appreciates his off-beat, original style.

- Brian Lumberg

Track Listing:
1. To Defy The Laws Of Tradition
2. John The Fisherman
3. Too Many Puppies
4. Jerry Was A Race Car Driver
5. Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
6. Tommy The Cat
7. My Name Is Mud
8. Mr. Krinkle
9. DMV
10. Over The Electric Grapevine
11. Wynona's Big Brown Beaver
12. Southbound Pachyderm
13. Over The Falls
14. Shake Hands With Beef
15. Coattails Of A Dead Man
16. Mary The Ice Cube

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