As one of the most relentless ditties in a particularly relentless catalogue, Primus’ “Tommy the Cat” is something that probably every bass player has come across at some point in their experience. Of course, it’s not the finest or even most original bass playing ever committed to tape, but it’s certainly become representative of a style of lead bass that countless fledgling musicians have hoped – in vain – to emulate. Perhaps it makes it all the more impressive that, when played live at least, frontman Les Claypool is able to pull off all that demanding fretwork in tandem with vocals that don’t exactly slip off the tongue themselves.
The stand-out thing about the appeal of “Tommy the Cat” is its virulent endurance, something not exactly shared by much of Primus’ flash-in-the-pan material. It’s a stunning display when first viewed, from the stalwart machine of the main bulk’s funk to the jagged, esoteric bass solo with its tongue-in-cheek hopscotch around the fret board. More a display of virtuosity than anything else, it’s hard to not still be entranced by the overwhelming catchiness of the whole thing – especially by the time that well known vocal hook sends its earworms down our lugs.
It would be foolish to ignore the complimentary work of guitarist, Larry LaLonde and drummer, Tim “Herb” Alexander as they provide the necessary musical pinches of salt to help flavour the piece. Indeed, it may be their solid work that helps this song to outgrow its teenage wanderlust and become a true classic. Its something welcome as a permanent mainstay on your local rock pub’s jukebox, until the whole zeitgeist dies the inevitable death that all sub-cultures are marching towards. Primus are assured a spot in at least one hallowed hall. Whatever future accolades they may receive for their legacy, the chances are that they’ll receive them, at least in part, for “Tommy the Cat”.