Volume 93, Issue 36
Wednesday, November 3, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Primus still epitome of Antipop
Us and Us Only
In a sense, The Charlatans have always been the middle child of the British music scene. Continually lost in the shuffle of slightly more consistent and innovative bands, but too good to be relegated to the back-burner, these ageless Brits have always sort of trudged along, content to offer up their retro-infused take on pop-rock.
Every new Charlatans release is inevitably accompanied by a tidal wave of hype, heralding it as the band's breakthrough record. And yet, almost without exception, each one fails to do much but help the band maintain the status quo.
This, their sixth release, is a collection of good (but not great) songs and serves as an almost tragic reminder of the Charlatans' maddening inability to make a great album.
While the band has never been particularly adept at writing songs which tug at the listener's heart strings, they have consistently demonstrated an uncanny ability to write the odd classic rock anthem, Rolling Stones style. Mediocrity aside, Us and Us Only does contain a few of those ageless gems.
The charming "I Don't Care Where You Live" reveals itself to be a timeless pop song, while "The Blonde Waltz" is a stunning bleary-eyed sing-along that potentially ranks right up there with the Stones' finest.
Unfortunately, each one of these nuggets of pop bliss is countered by an ill-advised foray into what the Charlatans probably considered avant-garde experimentalism. That includes the plodding instrumental dreariness of "Senses (Angel On My Shoulder)" and the slightly askew opener "Forever."
Figure in the Charlatans-by-numbers monotony of the cliché-laden "A House Is Not A Home" and the end result is another exasperating addition to the band's decidedly inconsistent back catalogue.
In short, Us and Us Only is destined to cement the band's status as Britain's most perplexing rockers. Maybe next time, boys.
Antipop. The title speaks for itself. With the lines from the title track, "I am The Antipop/I'll run against the grain till the day I drop," Primus has created an alter ego and an anthem to take them into the next millennium.
However, as a comment on the current state of music, Antipop is wrought with irony. Primus has always boycotted the mainstream and this album is no exception. Indeed, Antipop is the best Primus album to date.
While Primus continues to deliver their quirky themes, their music on the album is stronger than ever. Les Claypool reaches new heights in bass playing and the album has an overall eerie quality which may push the envelope, but never breaks the seal. The songs are powerful, however, they remain distinctly Primus.
Herein lies the irony. On Antipop, Primus has collaborated with such musicians as Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst and Metallica's James Hetfield, to name a few. Using big name musicians who aren't strangers to the modern pop spotlight puts Primus' motives in question.
Fortunately, Antipop is a good enough album to avoid having to answer the question. Morello's value as both a guitar player and producer on the tracks "Electric Uncle Sam," "Mama Didn't Raise No Fool," and "Power Mad" gives the album its essence. And "Electric Electric," perhaps the best song on the album, ruptures pop protocol with the help of Hetfield.
The album though, is driven mainly by the creativity of Primus and their desire to forever remain Antipop.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999