Former President of the United States Singer, Chris Ballew, Releases Quirky, Refreshing New Solo Album Primitive God
4.6 out of 5 stars
If you are unfamiliar with who Chris Ballew is, then you might know him better as the lead singer of 90’s alternative rock band, The Presidents of the United States of America or if you are of a much younger age, you may know him as the creator of Caspar Babypants - a children’s song moniker that has put out 19 albums in about 13 years.
He has also put out 3 solo albums under his own name (including the brand new LP titled Primitive God) in the last year or so on top of the 3 other solo albums he put out in the early 2000’s.
This is all just scratching the surface on how prolific this man is though.
He has headed up or been heavily involved in roughly 50 full-length albums in the last 30 or so years.
I haven’t got data on all the musicians in the world, but 50 albums in 30 years feels like it has to be one of the highest production rates especially considering he is still going strong.
Primitive God is going to sound familiar to fans of PUSA, but it is also going to sound different enough to allow for some growth and variation (as well as experimentation).
The album starts off with “Just Untwist” which is a rad rocker that is as catchy as any song Ballew has probably ever made. I especially appreciate the guitar riffs on this one. It is a bit “spacey” during the vocals on the chorus, but they come clear during the chorus to explain, “My mommy and my daddy never told me that I could just untwist.”
Overall, this album feels like a clash between PUSA and Eels (another rad band pretty much reliant on one main artist) mixed with a bit of Beck.
“Primitive God” is an electric-bluegrass sounding song that reminds me of early Beck and is a slower song with some very interesting effects throughout.
The next song “Cold Cold Sheets” is probably my favorite on the album (a bit of a toss up though as I explain later). This song is what I would call a “classic boogie song.” You get a repetitive keyboard sequence with a straightforward drum beat pattern that just kinda makes you want to dance in place while bobbing your head. If you are old enough to remember Devo, then that may be a good comparison for a song like this.
The song is also all about a failed relationship which is very relatable. It’s quite a masterclass in pop-rock, in my opinion. It’s something Ballew is as good at as anyone.
One thing Ballew knows how to do is to get a repeated set of words stuck in your head for days. This is the case with “Born Blurry Eyed.” Once you listen to this song, you will have the chorus stuck in your head. This is definitely a compliment though just in case that wasn’t clear.
“California Frown” is the other song that I have on the shortlist of “favorites” on this album. The song’s lyrics are quite topical for the state of materialism and shallowness of modern society, but it is also just a really beautiful-sounding song (I don’t think I have ever used the word beautiful to describe good music before…that’s how good it is). My favorite line is probably, “When all the hipsters need new hips.”
The synths in this song are the real centerpiece and focus as the guitar (and even drums to a degree) take a bit of a backseat as just something to keep a tempo.
I won’t go through EVERY song on the album for a bit of brevity (and maybe for intrigue?), but what I can say is that within this 13-song collection, you will easily get at least 5 songs that you will really enjoy.
One of the most radio-friendly songs on the album would probably be “Tenderest Love.” Damn, that song is a bit of controlled chaos that sounds incredible. All the runs and different instruments that get some focus makes this a song for musicians and non-musicians alike to appreciate.
I also really like the second to last song “Parasite By My Side.” It’s catchy and melancholic at the same time. It also has a bit of dark humor added if you are paying attention to the lyrics.
The album ends with “Venomous Blue.” This is a bit more of a straightforward song at the start but gets more technical and winding. It’s also the longest song on the album at 4:49. It’s got a really cool sound throughout, and with less effects on the vocals than some of the other songs, you can fully hear the lyrics quite easily whether they are entirely comprehensible or not is a bit up to the listener, I think. Poetry usually reserves a bit of ambiguity for the consumer to make some judgments of their own.
If you are like me, and you had been missing out on some rad music from a longtime rock god like Ballew, then you are going to enjoy this album for the sheer eccentricities that used to be more commonplace, and you will definitely get a feeling of nostalgia mixed with rejuvenation that sort of refreshes the soul as you listen to it.
Ballew has been a Seattle legend for a long time, working with other legends like Sir Mix-a-Lot (band called Subset) and creating quirky new music in damn near every rock genre. He stands the test of time, because he has played in every era since the 70s with a good feel for how music evolves and adapts.