After producing two exasperatingly obtuse albums that practically dared Interscope to junk its recording contract, San Francisco trio Primus has finally matured enough to combine its members’ ample talents with an occasional nod to tunefulness. To be sure, Tales From the Punchbowl has its moments of indulgent rubbish: notably the self-righteous “Year of the Parrot” as well as “De Anza Jig,” which features—sigh—a banjo. Fortunately, such detritus is effectively offset by several spirited tunes, notably “Over the Electric Grapevine” and “Professor Nutbutter’s House of Treats.” Bassist Les Claypool’s astonishing slap-funk technique remains Primus’ most distinguishing characteristic, but guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander’s formidable prowess is apparent on the bubbly “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and the brooding “Southbound Pachyderm.” As the song titles indicate, Claypool’s sophomoric lyrics are still best ignored, but since the singer keeps his nasal rantings relatively restrained, they don’t interfere with Punchbowl‘s otherwise engaging rhythms.