Primitive Race – Soul Pretender

3 November 2017

Christiopher Nisnibor – Chistopher Nosnibor

Primitive Race emerged through a collaborative release with Raymond Watts’ cult techno / industrial vehicle PIG in 2015, which was swiftly followed by an eponymous debut album. Conceived by Lords Of Acid manager / executive producer Chris Kniker, the band’s first iteration featured Graham Crabb (Pop Will Eat Itself), Erie Loch (LUXT, Blownload, Exageist), and Mark Thwaite (Peter Murphy, Tricky, Gary Numan), with a vast roll-call of guest contributors including Tommy Victor (Prong, Ministry, Danzig), Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Jackalope), Kourtney Klein (Combichrist, Nitzer Ebb), Mark “3KSK” Brooks (Warlock Pinchers, Foreskin 500, Night Club), Josh Bradford (RevCo, Stayte, Simple Shelter), and Andi Sex Gang. As such, they set out their stall as not so much a supergroup, but an industrial uber-collective, and Primitive Race captured that essence perfectly.

Soul Pretender marks a dramatic shift in every way. This is not an ‘industrial’ album. If anything, it’s a grunge album. That’s no criticism: it’s simply a statement of fact.

And while Primitive Race was by no means light on hooks or choruses, Soul Pretender is overtly commercial in comparison. Again, it’s no criticism, but simply a statement of fact.

It’s a common mistake made by critics to posit a negative critique based on what an album isn’t, without really taking into account the aims and objectives which made the album the album it is. So: ‘technoindustrial supergroup make an album that isn’t technoindustrial therefore it’s shit’ is wrong from the very outset.

Kniker makes no bones about the shift: Primitive Race was always intended to be a collaborative vehicle, and with former Faith No More singer Chuck Mosley on lead vocals and Melvins drummer Dale Crover on board, it was inevitable that Soul Pretender would have a different feel.

There’s a warped, Melvins / Mr Bungle vibe about the verse of the opener, ‘Row House, which is centred around a classic cyclical grunge riff that shift between chorus and overdrive on the guitar, and the 90s vice carries into the melodic ‘Cry Out,’ which is centred around three descending chords in the verse, erupting into a chorus that’s pure Nevermind Nirvana. And that’s no bad thing: it’s a great pop-influenced alt-rock tune with a belting chous.

The excessive guitar posturing on ‘Take It All’ is less impressive as a listening experience than on a technical level, but it’s soon blown away by the sneering ‘Bed Six’, with its chubby riffage and overall thrust.

The title track is perhaps the perfect summary of the album as a whole: uplifting four-chord chugs and a monster chorus are uplifting and exhilarating, and ‘Nothing to Behold’ works the classic grunge dynamic with a sinewy guitar and melodic hook. In fact, ‘classic’ is a key descriptor while assessing the compositional style of Soul Pretender: there isn’t a dud track on it, and the songrwiting is tight. There may not be any immediate standouts, but the consistency is impressive, and in that department, it’s a step up from its predecessor, which packed some crackers, but a handful of more middling tunes. Again, the change in methodology – a static lineup rather than infinite collaborators – is likely a factor here.

The album’s lack track, ‘Dancing on the Sun’, is a slow-burn beast, with hints of ‘Black Hole Sun’ trodden beneath the heft and swagger of Queens of the Stone Age. It’s precisely the track in which an album should end, nodding to the epic and marking an optimal change of pace. And it’s in reflecting on the overall structure and shape of Soul Pretender that it’s possible to reflect on what a great album it is, with its back-to-back riffery and explosive choruses. And did I mention force…

AAA

Primitive_Race_-_Soul_Pretender cover

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Work in Progress: An Excerpt

It’s been a while.

Music reviewing, the day-job, life… all of these factors have conspired to halt any ‘creative’ writing for some time now. The novel and sort story I had been working on ground to a halt, and a certain torpor set in, while I found myself running just to stand still during practically every waking hour. But I decided I needed to get my shit back together and resume writing. It wasn’t easy at first, but I did. Resuming work on the dystopian short story, with the working title ‘Retail Island’, it soon began to expand toward novella territory. In the space of three weeks, 3,000 words has expanded to almost 10,000: it’s a fair way off being finished, and it’s still very much a work in progress in every sense.

To give too much context at this juncture would likely to be to spoil it, and even the plot is still evolving. However, the structure – yes, there is one this time – is something of a return to the episodic form of my work before things shot off the rails in 2008 when I ‘assembled’ THE PLAGIARIST. So, the bare bones: Robert Ashton is hired as a consultant to work on a project at a pharmaceutical company whose office is located on the edge of a large out-of-town retail park. He soon becomes suspicious of the nature of the project and the company’s practices, and things swiftly turn strange and ugly.

An Opening

Saturday, the immense Primark store that had been under wraps and swarming with construction workers and fitters when Robert had landed at the retail park opened its doors to the public. The event was distinguished by queues not only at the checkouts, but in the aisles, on the forecourt as eager shoppers crowded and jostled to gain entry to the vast warehouse packed with sweatshop-manufactured clothing, and in the car parks as shoppers arrived in droves. Long before midday, the retail park’s parking spaces were all occupied, as were those of the neighbouring Asda and Sainsbury’s superstores, and many had simply abandoned their vehicles on the access roads, pavements and verges in and around the development. Robert had only ventured out to WH Smith to purchase a magazine and newspaper in order to sequester himself away in his hotel room for a day of rest, but even this brief excursion swiftly evolved into a major operation as he was forced to navigate by a wildly circuitous route and battle his way through the crowd which had spilled out to occupy a large area of the park.

“Hey!” a large woman in grey sweatpants and a voluminous T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Whatchoo Lookin at…. Bitch?’ barked as Robert tried to inch his way through a conglomeration of milling shoppers. He glanced up automatically. She seemed to be staring straight at him, but assuming she must have been trying to get the attention of someone behind him, Robert glanced over his shoulder. “Yeah, you,” she said gruffly. “Where d’you fink you’re goin’?”

“I’m sorry?” Robert blinked.

“Yer will be,” she growled in response. “We been ‘ere fuckin’ ages waitin’ t’gerrin, so instead o’ pushin’ frough y’need t’wait yer turn.”

“Oh, right, I see,” Robert said. “In there?” he pointed toward Primark.

“Yeh. We was ‘ere first.”

“Of course. I was just trying to get through to get to WS Smith, I’m not going in there, so…”

“Yeah, fuckin’ right. I’ve ‘eard all kinds of excuses to push frough. ‘Meetin’ a family member. Lost kids. Member o’ staff. One guy even said ‘ee were a fuckin’ medic attendin’ a ‘mergency ‘cause someone’d passed out. As if! Cheeky fucker. So y’reckon I’m gunna buy that you wanna go to Smiffs?”

“But I do,” Robert protested.

“Yeah, fuck off out of it,” the woman snarled, bearing her teeth and revealing numerous gaps.

A burly man wearing similar attire – an England football shirt stretched over his gut – tattoos and shaven head stepped up, bristling. “You ‘eard the lady. Get the fuck out, you cunt.” Robert wasn’t so sure about the status of his antagonist as a lady, but didn’t have time to dwell on that as the thug stepped forward and shoved him hard in the chest. Robert stumbled back and was just able to keep his footing, but knocked into a woman who was trying to steer a pushchair through the dense forest of bodies.

“Excuse me!” she shouted coarsely in a 40-a-day voice.

“I’m sorry.”

“You will be,” she snapped. “You need to look where you’re going!”

Robert tried to explain, but had merely stammered a few unintelligible syllables before another man stepped up beside the woman and began berating him for being a ‘posho cunt’. Before he knew what was happening, Robert found himself knocked to the ground, and a tempest of fists and trainer-toed feet rained blows about his body. He curled himself tightly into a ball, and before long, following a foot to the skull, lost consciousness. The sound of the crowd faded as everything faded to black.

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Great Concepts That Were Never Going to Work

I consider myself to be something of an ideas person. I also like to think that I’m reasonably disciplined, however, and thus able to bring a reasonable percentage of my ideas to fruition, although often this takes a lot longer than I’d like, largely on account of time constraints, but also on account of my own limitations, technical and otherwise. Indeed, some projects I have to shelve simply because I can’t master the technology to do the concept justice and I either don’t know anyone who might be willing or able to collaborate, or I’m simply too stubborn and controlling to relinquish the control necessary to collaborate. C’est la vie.

Anyway, I probably complete around half of the projects I begin, and these in turn represent around a quarter of the ideas I have. As I said, often, there simply isn’t time. However, on other occasions, it’s immediately apparent that the idea’s a non-starter. Take, for example, my idea to assemble a gay tribute to the Bomfunk MCs. It would have been called the Bumfuck MCs. But this was scuppered when I discovered that no-one could remember the band, or their immense pan-European hit, ‘Freestyler.’ Then I realised that I only knew the one song anyway, so dropped the idea before placing any ‘wanted’ ads.

I’ve also had some fantastic never-going-to-happen concepts for television programmes, which I’ve also decided it’s probably best not to pursue. Here are just a few of them.

Bollyoaks: Indian remake of hit UK soap Hollyoaks. Phil Redmond could never have devised this, with his obsession with Scouse-tinged supposed realism! Yes, all-singing, all-dancing, huge budget and mammoth caste as teenagers and twentysomethings go through the trials and tribulations of parental break-ups, gay snogging, pub brawls, dodgy wheeling and dealing, nightclub fires and all the rest.

West Side Story: A gangsta rap remake of the hit musical. There are thuggins and muggins, shootins and knifins innit, and there’s a guy an a gal and she’s got a booty to die for but she’s from the wrong side of the tracks, you know what I’m sayin? The title, of course, should be delivered with arms folded, and pronounced ‘Wesssiiide Story,’ you get me?

Never Mind the Bollocks… Here’s a Pop Quiz: a former yoof TV presenter selected at random from the dole queue hosts a quiz where 2 panels comprised of musicians and comedians answer questions on pop trivia instead of a half-hour of digressions punctuated with abysmal renditions of ‘intros’ of semi-popular songs.

Gash in the Attic: Lorne Spicer and an ‘expert’ go round to people’s houses and hunt around until they find hidden treasure in the form of sex slaves and prostitutes hidden in the loft or garage. They’re then checked out and taken to auction, where they are trafficked to the highest bidding pimp.

X Marks the Spot Factor: Like a talent competition for the talentless, where wannabes perform karaoke to a panel of judges and the viewers get to cast their votes for who goes through to the next round. The winner gets to release a terrible cover version as a single, before being ritually slaughtered and buried in an unmarked grave. The people who voted for them have to then search for them, using a pirate-style map, where X marks the spot. The person who finds the ‘treasure’ then gets to dig up the corpse and resurrect it and the career of the deceased ‘star.’

Come Die With Me: Each week, five suicidal misanthropes take turns to throw a dinner party. The host poisons the food, and they all die. The winning contestant is presented with a grand, in cash, on a silver platter, toward funeral costs.

Mollusc of the Glen: A drama series set in the highlands of Scotland which focuses on a clan of mussels that swim from the Clyde upstream to a fictional castle in a fictional location with an absurd and incredible name. Alex Salmon makes a guest appearance in one episode, in which he attempts to mussel in on leading lady Shelly, while Salmon Rushdie has a cameo in another, despite not being Scottish. But then neither are the majority of the regular actors, who can’t act anyway.

Neighbours at War: Live from the border of Israel and Gaza!

American Idle: Couch Potatoes with a yearning for celebrity status countered by a complete lack of motivation to do anything but gorge themselves, sit around eating chips and burgers and drinking beer. The winner receives a year’s supply of Domino’s Pizza, an extra-large couch and a reinforced bed.

Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Being a Music Reviewer – Part Seven: Negative Equity for Working? No Thanks!

I’ve written previously on the economics of the music industry and some of my experiences working as a music reviewer. And yes, I do mean working: just because I enjoy it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a considerable amount of time and effort involved. There are deadlines and word counts and chaser emails from editors and PR people. And there are standards to maintain.

I recall the Musicians’ Union campaigning against venues with ‘pay to play’ policies back in the 90s, and this practice does now appear to be rather less prevalent. There’s also currently a substantial movement campaigning on behalf of workers – writers and artists in particular – with a view to prevent exploitation, and to stop people being pushed into working for free. While zero-hours contracts – and I’d like to think it goes without saying I’m fundamentally opposed to them – have been a hot topic of late, the vast swathes of people working for free, ‘for the exposure’ or to ‘build their portfolio’ as they’re so often told, have been largely overlooked.

I write music reviews. It’s not my day-job, because writing music reviews at the level I operate doesn’t pay. I’m ok with that. I used to spend a lot of money buying albums and going to watch bands play. Now I don’t. But I am still very active in supporting, and, effectively promoting music. I spend long hours typing up reviews. I’ve spent a decade straight doing this now. I’ve seen some incredible shows, conducted some hero-worship interviews and heard more amazing albums than I could have ever imagined. But churning out up to 1,000 words a night and working past midnight seven nights a week on top of a challenging day-job and parenting means it is very much for the love rather than the money. But I view it rather like bartering: I receive an album or entry to show in exchange for writing which may further the artist’s career. I feel no guilt over this, especially if an artist has hired a PR company: their job is to attract media coverage by sending representatives of said media copies of the album or inviting them to shows in the hope that they’ll provide coverage which is positive. A positive review is, ultimately, marketing and promotion. If a PR fails to attract significant media attention, then they’ve arguably failed in their job. But they still get paid. It’s not necessarily their fault if the press don’t bite. But of course, if they do, then the PR has done a good job, justified the expense, and probably helped shift some units.

So why would an artist or label undermine this? I recently experienced an unusual and frustrating situation, where a local (sort of) band I like launched their new album, at a venue I like, promoted by a national PR I’ve been in contact with for quite some time. The gig came to me via the editor of a site, and it was he who arranged it with the PR. On arrival at the venue, I was informed that I was on the list, but that it was a ‘cheap rates’ list, rather than an actual guest list.

I accept that things sometimes go wrong, that communication chains break from time to time: the guest list doesn’t get passed to the guy on the door, or your name hasn’t been added to it, or you’re not marked as having a +1. It can be embarrassing. But there’s no point making life hard for the guy on the door: he’s just doing his job (even if often they’re not interested in being shown the email confirming that you’re on the list with a +1, because, well, you could be anyone and besides, there’s a queue of people with actual tickets to deal with).

Music reviewers are often accused of freeloading, of being liggers – an accusation I’ve faced myself. But as a writer, I’m not getting something for nothing: my side of the deal is to actually produce copy in exchange for my free pass. Do other journalists face the same criticism? Can you imagine a news journalist being told ‘you like news, you should write news articles for free’? Or, to offer a slightly different perspective, imagine a producer pitching to Jamie Oliver, ‘well, you enjoy cooking, so why should I pay you for your time to do it on TV? It’s just a hobby, right?’

Let’s look at this in terms of the broader picture. People usually work for an hourly rate, or otherwise on a by-job basis. The minimum wage in England is £7.50 for over 25s. I’m way over 25. So, if I arrive at a gig having been informed by a PR firm hired by a band or label that I’m on the guest list for a show, with a +1, I should be able to reasonably expect that I will be allowed entry to the event as a non-paying guest, with the expectation that I will provide coverage and therefore media exposure for said artist. Because, after all, my review is work.

If it’s only a £6 gig, and it lasts 4 hours and takes me 2 hours to write my review, then I’m working for well below minimum wage. But I accept that, it’s the nature of an industry in which there is no money once you’re below the top 5%. But to arrive at a show to be told that no, I’m on the ‘discount ticket’ list and that I have to pay £4 to get in… well, that’s different. It may sound petty to piss and moan about paying £4 to get into a £6 gig up the road from your house, but it’s not actually about £4. It’s about the fact I’m expected to pay to provide a band or event with exposure.

You wouldn’t hire a web developer and ask them to pay to build you a website, would you? Or tell your builder that you’re going to charge him to build an extension? How many would walk into a restaurant and tell the chef he’s got to pay you to cook a meal? So why would it be different for a music reviewer?

I accept the depressing reality that we live in a culture where everyone wants something for nothing, thanks in no small part to free music streaming sites, YouTube, and crappy internships. But as of now, I’m done paying to work.

Rage on the Road: March 2017

It’s been a while. I’m making a brief excusion on the road this coming weekend to vent my spleen in the name of art and entertainment. Dates and details are as folows:

Saturdy 25th March: Leeds – Grove Inn, 8pm.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1303715163026276/

Sundat 26th March: York – Fulford Arms, 2.30pm (a matinee show for the mums)

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/435521376838303/

I will be delivering full 20-minute verbal assaults at both shows.

Dale Prudent will be doing likewise.

We will be joined in Leeds by Joe Williams and Karl Whiting, and by AB Johnson (Stereoscope), John Tuffen (Namke Communications) and Rachel Ross in York.

Brace yourselves.

2016: A Year in Books

When I’m not writing, raging in public or watching live music while supping beer, I like to read. For those who care, and also those who don’t, and for my own posterity, here’s a list of the books I’ve rad or re-read in the last 12 months.

 

Derek Raymond – The Devil’s Home on Leave

Chuck Palahniuk – Beautiful You

William S. Burroughs – The Electronic Revolution

Nicholson Baker – The Anthologist

Mickey Spillane – The Long Wait

William Gibson – Neuromancer

Ed McBain – Axe

Joseph O’Neill – The Dog

Paul Scott-Bates – Hitting the Black Wall

Edward Bunker – Stark

Douglas Coupland – Girlfriend in a Coma

Richard Stark – Parker

Peter York Dictators’ Homes

JG Ballard – Kingdom Come

Derek Raymond – How the Dead Live

Chuck Palahniuk – Make Something Up

John Niven – The Sunshine Cruise Company

AD Hitchin – Consensual

Colin Wilson – The Mind Parasites

Charles Bukwoski – Ham on Rye

J S Gordon – Life Pervert

HP Lovecraft – Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre

Dennis Lewis – The Fevered Hive

Ellis Johnson – Peep Book

David Peace – Nineteen Seventy Seven

Michel Houellebecq – Submission

Derek Raymond – A State of Denmark

David Peace – Nineteen Eighty

Dashiel Hammett – The Maltese Falcon

Ed McBain – Give the Boys a Great Big Hand

Laura A Munteanu – Street Dog Music

Harry Harrison – Wheelworld

Brett Easton Ellis – The Informers

Ed McBain – Cut Me In

Glen Taylor (ed.) – More Exhibitionism

David Peace – Nineteen Eighty Three

2016: A Year of Nights Off with Beer and Live Music

I’ve spent a fair few nights watching live music in the last 12 months. Many have been outstanding. I’ve seen acts I had spent half my life waiting to see, I’ve seen some of my favourite acts in unexpectedly small venues, I’ve seen over a hundred acts for the first time, and found new favourites. I haven’t attended quite a gig a week, but it’s not been far off. It’s been fun, and it’s involved the consumption of a lot of beer, and a of time in particular in The Brudenell Social Club and The Fulford Arms. However bad things have been in 2016 socially and politically, there has, at least, always been great live music in abundance.

There is a heap of people – PR, bands, venue personages – I’d like to thank, and I’ve chatted to some ace folks while out and about. Mosly I’d like to thank all the acts I’ve seen for making it a fun year. Those acts are listed, alphabetically, below. I’ve had a blast, and suffice it to say I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2017.

 

…And the Hangnails x 3

99 Watts

999

Asylums

Avalanche Party

Bearfoot Beware

Baroness

Beige Palace

Big Love

The Black Lagoons

Brix & the Extricated

Broken Skull

Buen Chico x 2

Bull x 3

By Any Means

Cannibal Animal

Charlie Padfield

Chris Catalyst

Circuit Breaker

Climbing Alice

Colour of Spring

Consumer Electronics

The Contortionist

Corinth

Cowtown

Deathmace

Death Valley High

DVNE

Dragged Into Sunlight

The Duke Spirit

Eagulls

Elsa Hewitt

Eugene Gorgeous x 2

Face

The Fall

False Flags

Famine

Fat Spatula

Fawn Spots x 2

FEWS

Fighting Caravans x3

Fizzy Blood x2

Flora Greysteel x 2

The Franceens

Future of the Left x 2

Game Program

Gang of Four

Ghold

Gnaw Their Tongues

Gloomweaver

Groak

Hands Off Gretel

Heads.

Helen Money

Hinges

Holy Esque

Hoogerland

The Homesteads

Hora Douse

Horsebastard

The Howl & The Hum

Human Certainty

Irk x 2

Jaded Eyes

Jakoby

Joanne

Kagoule

Kid Canaveral

Killing Joke

Kleine Schweine

Knifedoutofexistence

Legion of Swine

Living Body

Low Key Catastrophe

The Lucid Dream

Mannequin Death Squad

Man of Moon x 2

Max Raptor

Maybeshewill

Mayshe-Mayshe x 2

Meabh McDonnell

The Membranes x 2

Milk Crimes

Mishkin Fitzgerald

Mouses

Mums

NARCS

Near Meth Experience

Nick Hall

Moloch

Mountains Crave

Naked Six

Neuschlaufen

Nordic Giants

No Spill Blood

Ona Snap

One Way Street

Oozing Wound

Orlando Ferguson

Palehorse

Party Hardly x 2

Percy x 2

Pijn

Post War Glamour Girls

Protomartyr

Push

Raging Speedhorn

RM Hubbert

RSJ

Sand Creature

Sarah Carey

Seep Away

Shellac

Shield Patterns x 2

Shrykull

Silver Apples

Simon Bolley

Soma Crew x 5

Stereoscope x 3

Stoneghost

Suburban Toys

Super Luxury

Sweet Deals on Surgery

TesseracT

Thank

Tooth x 2

They Might Be Giants

Three Trapped Tigers

Treeboy & Arc

Unwave

Vesper Walk

Washing Machine Repair Man

Wharf Street Galaxy Band

Wolf Solent

Worriedaboutsatan

Yard Wars

You Slut!

ZoZo