Tuesday, December 09, 2008

'90s Music Potpouri

Whatever happened to Primus? If the grunge movement of the '90s was ultimately bad for pop-rock--and I think it was--there's something kind of glorious about Primus in their distillation of the the grunge ethos. (Even if, strictly speaking, they're less true grunge than bands like Pearl Jam.) If grunge was about a wholesale rejection of '80s pop-rock, I'd submit that a track such as "Tommy the Cat" is about as pure a rejection as you'll find.

Plus, it's kind of awesome and Les Claypool was a mad genius.

Anyway, I was just wondering what had become of Primus on the cultural landscape. The wikimachine says they were touring as recently as 2006, but I'm wondering more about whether or not they still register in the culture. You'd think that, at the very least, some enterprising rappers would have made hay by sampling some of their bass lines.

P.S.: Is there a defense to be mounted on behalf of Counting Crows? A few weeks ago I confessed my severe weakness for them to the Pig. He was horrified. Is it possible to count the Crows as anything more than a guilty pleasure?


Anonymous said...


go to Pandora.com and enter Primus to have them build a radio station around the music...Les was nothing if not prolific, although I haven't heard anything about them recently.

I know you're a cool guy, and posts like this continue to justify my judgement. But, damn...Apple? WTF?

- MRN aka "The Husband"

P.S. Merry Chirstmas!

Anonymous said...

I cannot in good conscience speak to the defense of the crows that count, JVL. The Pig is right to recoil at the mention. But I confess, late at night, when the apartment is silent, and no one is available to catalog my indiscretion, I sneak to the computer, disconnect my iPod, and play Mr. Jones, while eating a pint of Phish Food.

Anonymous said...

Les Claypool has done some solo stuff. He recorded an album with Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Stewart Copeland (The Police) undder the name Oysterhead.

HDNET runs concerts on the weekends. We caught "The Jammies" concert one weekend and saw Claypool (wearing a pig mask) doing one of his solo songs.

I have a subscription to Rhapsody. They have a lot of Claypool solo stuff.

I confess to knowing all of this because after seeing the concert on HDNET, I went through my own "whatever happened to" search.

Anonymous said...

According to most music historians counting crows is still inexplicable and indefensible, and shouldn't be mentioned except as part of an insult (as in 'you liked Counting Crows'). Surely you meant black crows, who were indeed defensible on circumstantial grounds.
But I (music expert) take umbrage with this made-up mtv category of 'grunge.' Pearl jam wasn't really grunge so much as the beginning of the '80s music' backlash that dominated the 90s and kept talented bands like primus on the sidelines through the power of the infinite supply of friendly jammers and rap-roc-beat-offs labels could easily locate and recycle as new.
Technically, there is not any distinctive grunge sound beyond ripping off mudhoney and the melvins (music source, 2006).
I hear Les still lurks. And he's as good and defiantly off-kilter as ever (Ebert, 2007).

william randolph brafford said...


I'm going to have to step up and say that the Counting Crows‘ first two albums are entirely defensible. I was too young to catch them the first time around (before they became what they are now…), but some of those early songs seems to be wedged just beside the heart of the essence of mid-90s coffee-rock culture, as best I can reckon it from the stories of friends who are a few years older than me. (And while most defenses of the Counting Crows will have to be grounded on this “captured a cultural moment” thing, but I've heard a compelling non-ironic case for Adam Duritz's early lyrics.)



Anonymous said...

I'll defend the Counting Crows: "August and Everything After" is one of the most listenable-to albums of the 90s. It's not groundbreaking in any real way, but it is enjoyable in that muzak of the 90s sort of way. There isn't a bad track on the album, and there are quite a few very good tracks. There aren't too many other big acts from that came to the fore in the same time period that can say the same thing (off the top of my head, Pearl Jam is the only other one that had an album that was very good/great all the way through...and they had two of them).

I haven't been as impressed by anything that they've done in subsequent years. But that first album was damn good.

WershovenistPig said...

JVL, I did indeed crap on the Counting Crows.

Of course, the Crows' first record sat alongside Dave Matthews' Under the Table and Dreaming in nearly all my friends' dorm rooms at Haverford. And I must admit that I sang Counting Crows' album-track Sullivan Street a cappella as a sophomore. At least my a cappella group avoided Two Princes by the Spin Doctors, unlike the other male group on campus.

That said, by the time I heard Mr. Jones for the thousandth time by 1996-or-so, it was time to feel some embarassment.

As of the end of 2008, if you're listening to Counting Crows as a reminder of your youth, that's fine. Listening to Primus, some shoegaze like Lush, or the Singles soundtrack (namely the Paul Westerberg tracks and State of Love and Trust by Pearl Jam) might be a better use of your time.

But if you are still finding Duritz' songsmithing vital, then I think you might need a musical intervention.

WershovenistPig said...

One more thing, I've been posting lots of solid music over on the Pig to break up the dry posts relating to the markets.