Sailing The Seas Of Cheese


Interscope / EastWest Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When Les Claypool and Primus made the jump from a small independent label to a major, one had to wonder: would a band like this survive in the real music business? Anyone who was familiar with their previous releases Suck On This and Frizzle Fry knew that Primus is a band that neither stirves for nor cares about commercial appeal. They're out there to play music the way they think it's meant to be played.

The answer, of course, seems to be that Primus held their own just fine, as their major label debut (and third album overall) Sailing The Seas Of Cheese proved. It's a strange little album - but then again, who would expect anything different from bassist/vocalist Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander?

Following the brief intro "Seas Of Cheese" (which features Claypool on string bass), things get kicked off in the right direction with "Here Come The Bastards," a song that is powered more by the groove created by Primus than the intricate basswork and guitar stylings of Claypool and LaLonde. (And to think that Claypool tried out for Metallica - God knows what would have happened had they hired him.) The tempo is almost like a waltzing march, and if this one doesn't have you stomping your feet in joy, chances are the following track, "Sgt. Baker," will.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sometimes, Claypool's rapid-fire vocal style makes him a little hard to understand, but that's nothing compared to the electronically altered voice of Tom Waits, who makes a guest appearance on the track "Tommy The Cat". (The live version of this track was originally on Suck On This.) Waits is a perfect match for the band, though I do wish they had left him deliver his lines without processing his vocals.

One of the tracks originally pushed on this album, "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver," is still one of the best songs on the album, yet again featuring Claypool and his beliefs that the bass can be a lead instrument. (He proves often enough, of course, that it can; Claypool could well be one of the best living bassists around today.) Sometimes, this track reminds me a bit of "Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver" from their later album Tales From The Punchbowl, especially with the ironic ending in the verses.

Sailing The Seas Of Cheese is a technically great work, whether it's listening to a song in 11/8 time on "Eleven", or it's working through interludes (including a pretty solo from Claypool) on "Sathington Waltz" and the opening to "Fish On". It might not be the traditional straight-laced form of alternative or rock that one's used to, but it's surprisingly easy to get used to.

Admittedly, if you had followed Primus's work up to the release of Sailing The Seas Of Cheese, this album would seem like a natural progression. But if it was the first album of theirs you ever picked up, listening to it might seem like skinny-dipping in a freezing cold pond. But the more time you spend in the album - or the pond, for that matter - the more you get used to it, and Sailing The Seas Of Cheese turns out to be a very comfortable, very enjoyable album.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope / EastWest Records, and is used for informational purposes only.