It’s hard not to view Primitive Race’s sophomore outing, Soul Pretender, as the next chapter in Chuck Mosley’s epic comeback story. On the record, out Friday on Metropolis, Mosley is positively radiant, sounding better, sharper and more engaged than he has since the heyday of Faith No More’s Introduce Yourself. After years of being relegated to the struggles of ”solo” outings and hard-to-find Cement discs, Mosley here is raspy — he wears his age incredibly well — and utterly menacing as he lurks behind lurching guitars and the occasional twinkle of a keyboard, the landscape darker than his previous work. And, damn, does it work!

The record is a change of course for Primitive Race, more of a band than a project assembled by founder Chris Kniker. While Long In The Tooth and its self-titled full-length debut peddled in a mode of industrial music — think Wax Trax by way of Ministry, which is appropriate, given the appearance herein of Ministry collaborator Mark Thwaite — the new record introduces post-punk and even the adjacent-pig-fuck of Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard into the mix. The result is a heady stew of angular guitars and throbbing drums (here courtesy of Melvins icon Dale Crover), and it’s pretty invigorating stuff.

The record is not without its shortcomings, though they are minor and don’t get in the way of the thing sounding like a beast possessed at times. The mix is a little muddy and rough, leaving Mosley and Crover — the real reasons some people will be tuning in — low in the limelight. This sometimes suits Mosley, whose lends a kind of slick but bassy rumble to the proceedings during soaring choruses, but doesn’t do wonders for Crover, who operates best when he can chew the scenery and, no diss to King Buzzo intended, catch the listener’s ear.

Standouts? There are tons, from the morbid (the sinister start to closer ”Dancing On The Sun”) to the catchy (the hooky ”Catch Up,” the bass-spined groove of opener ”Row House”) to the furious (muted-guitar march of ”Turn It Up”). That’s not even to mention excellent offerings like the singing-it-to-the-skies anthem ”Cranial Matter,” which has been stuck on repeat in my head more or less since Mosley previewed the track for me in rougher form back in March. This is a record of songs that will capture your attention.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Primitive Race will continue to morph for its third outing or Kniker and company will continue exploring the sonic terrain they map out on Soul Pretender. If Kniker knows what’s best for him, though, he’ll continue to enlist Mosley as a vocalist and songwriter. This man, rising from the ashes of his past, is reaching for the stars and hitting them.

About the Author

Justin Vellucci

Justin Vellucci is a former staffer at Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines like American Songwriter and PopMatters, alt-weeklies such as Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper, and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish and Linoleum, and the Gannett publication Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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