Friday, August 23, 2019

Review: Primitive Race - Cranial Matter

    On August 10th, two years to the day that I finally got to meet Chuck Mosley (Faith No More/Bad Brains/Cement/Indoria/VUA) in person at Maggie Meyer's Irish Pub in Huntsville, AL, I received my copy of Primitive Race’s Cranial Matter in the mail. Such coincidences give me hope and kinda make me think that there might be some vague plan or consciousness behind the curtain of the universe. Cranial Matter is a remix album of tunes taken from Primitive Race’s second full-length, Soul Pretender, which featured Chuck on vocal duty. Soul Pretender was released to much critical acclaim (it was my album of the year), but Chuck passed away literally days after its release. It still stands as a landmark in his career. Now Chris Kniker and company have brilliantly pulled off an excellent tribute by creating a remix album that stands on its own from its processor, even with a couple of tunes repeated. Featuring remixes by the diverse cast of Toshi Kasai, Dave Lombardo, Dave Ogilvie, Bumblebee, The Skatenigs, Paul Leary, Angelspit, Rodney Anonymous, Kevin Rutmanis, and Ego Likeness, you can’t help but wanna check this out.
    I don't wanna spoil too much because discovery was a large part of my enjoyment during the first listen of Cranial Matter. Hell, even on my 5th repeat, I'm finding new angles. On some songs, Chuck is treated like another instrument. That description sounds bad, but any fan of old FNM can tell you that a lot of his charm was in making his unconventional holler flow in and out with the other instruments. Other tracks push his vocals into hyperfocus: listening to Leary's haunting take on "Soul Pretender", I hear more Bad Brains-ish affectations that I missed the first time around. I went back and they're totally there on the original release. Both new takes on "Bed Six" have given me a new appreciation for my least favorite tune on Soul Pretender. Before y'all break out the torches and pitchforks, a song can do a lot worse than being the weakest on THE BEST ALBUM OF 2017. The flow on Cranial Matter is sort of brilliant. The album is really a 6-song EP wrapped up with a potent new song called "Your Heart In Real Time" sung by industrial legend Chris Connolly, but then we're treated to 4 more excellent remixes. Chuck gets the last word and the Ego Likeness remix of "Nothing To Behold" wraps it all up perfectly. Bandcamp has an additional 3 more songs remixed by John Fryer, Go Fight, and Pop Will Eat itself. All of them solid. If you bought the CD, seek these out too.
    With all this electronic power, tinkering, and reevaluation (not mention guest vocals) Cranial Matter sonically comes full circle to their earlier pre-Chuck material while honoring the artist that left in the midst of what should've been a legendary comeback. Fans of Chuck Mosley, of course, will wanna check this out. Fans of Primitive Race that didn't care for the new direction of Soul Pretender might wanna give these songs another shot in these new forms. Even if you didn't pick up Soul Pretender, Cranial Matter has the atmosphere, bite, beauty, and just great songs to stand on its own. 

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