Primus Mixes Metal With a Bit of Satire


Heavy metal was originally supposed to represent the revenge of the screw-ups, the guys who never took formal music lessons and learned all their licks from old Black Sabbath albums.

But that equation gets reversed in the hands of the Bay Area trio Primus, a band that aspires to achieve the heavy-osity of metal and thrash of punk by wielding the technical prowess of jazz players. At the Hollywood Palladium on Thursday, Primus stamped out industrial-strength funk-metal that had audience members either moshing or marveling with mouths agape.

Bassist Les Claypool, a merry prankster who leans heavily on thumb-slapping riffs that channel both Larry Graham and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, anchored everything the band played--lean, strident melodies delivered with military precision while Claypool sang his absurdist, lost-in-the-funhouse lyrics in an adenoidal yelp.


Primus’ material favors metal’s dark shadings and fatalist worldview, but Claypool’s satirical streak keeps him above the fray. He revels in metal’s cliches while maintaining a snide distance from them. That stance grew tiresome as the set progressed, as did Claypool’s bass, which was so loud that it occasionally drowned out guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander.

The result was a rock show version of a barroom joke that takes too long to reach the punch line.