“Seas of Cheese/Here Come the Bastards”
Sailing the Seas of Cheese: Deluxe Edition, 2013
I was lucky enough to see Primus open for Fishbone in the fall of 1991, and to this day they are the only opening band I’ve ever seen get an encore. The crowd was cheering for an encore with resounding shouts of “Primus Sucks! Primus Sucks!” to what seemed like no avail, when Angelo Moore and Fish came out to the mic and yelled for Primus to come back out for their fans. When Moore and Fish joined the “Primus Sucks!” chants the guys sheepishly reemerged. My fondest memory of their set was being part of the giant circle pit that skanked to the beat as one over the marching stomp of “Here Come the Bastards.”
So when I read that Les Claypool and company were going to reissue this album not in a remastered form but in a remixed one I was more than a bit skeptical. I’m a huge fan of well done remasters, and Primus had released two stellar ones of their own in 2002 with the live album Suck On This and their studio debut Frizzle Fry. But to actually return to master tracks and change decisions about the mix 20+ years later was a different thing entirely.
I’m happy to report all my worry was for naught. What is noticeable from the opening creaks of ropes and pulleys on “Seas of Cheese” is a sense of space absent from the 1991 mix; those nautical noises are behind Les’ voice and to his left and right, and heaven’s above, the reverb on his voice is toned down so he immediately sounds like the singer of “Frizzle Fry” not a processed nasal monster. When they launch into the first proper song, “Here Come the Bastards”, all of my misgivings have disappeared.
What Claypool and co. have achieved here is to make Sailing the Seas of Cheese sound more like Primus than ever before. Many bands lose some, if not all, control when they enter the major label ecosystem, and Primus were no exception. However, with the success of Sailing the Seas of Cheese (it went gold in early 1993, shortly before the release of the follow-up, Pork Soda), Primus were able to regain some of that control. Pork Soda has always sounded more like their live sound, with resonant bass and plenty of space for each instrument to inhabit. The compressed and reverb heavy mix of Seas was the outlier, but an understandable one given the huge gamble of such an odd band on a major label in the pre-Nirvana era.