Where the hell has this record been? Chuck Mosley's been the ex-singer of FAITH NO MORE for what, twenty years now? After a heinous van accident cut short the life of his '90s band CEMENT, the gleefully tone-deaf man behind "Arabian Disco", "Anne's Song" and (of course) "We Care a Lot" got down to the business of family and earning a living, and this long-rumored solo album spent yeeeeears on the back burner. And with an album title like "Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food", it seems like Mosley would be content to keep it that way.
Fortunately for us, he's selling himself way short. "WROHRFF" is a weird, diverse, off-kilter, unfashionable stew of influences, sounds that seem all the better for not being bolted together quite right — much like, I dunno, the two FAITH NO MORE records Mosley fronted? The thing is, while that kitchen-sink adventurism remains from the old days, this record doesn't sound too much like his former band to come off as stale or contrived (well, except for a half-assed, unserious stumble through a "We Care a Lot" remake, the album's only real low point). Sure, there's reference points here and there — the big keyboards, the occasional forays into, well, rapping over hard rock — but there's also a lot of straight-up heavy rock and roll, some atmospheric balladeering, and some quirky little mini-epics that don't fit into any category.
And here's the big secret about Chuck Mosley — he's not really that bad of a singer. He uses what he's got and makes it work, and a lot of the deliberately nasal, tuneless stuff is just done for effect. And he gets the job done, whether it's your thing or not. A song like the simmering, slow-building "Tractor" wouldn't work with anyone else behind the mic, either on the quiet false ending or the soaring, plaintive main hook of the song. And marquee single "The Enabler" may get attention because of guest appearances by Jonathan Davis of KORN and guitar wizard John 5, but Mosley holds it down on this tune — you can hear the pent-up frustration and desire to get back to work bursting out of his gamey dreadlocks and out into the microphone.
It takes a while to get used to the amount of mellow stuff here — Chuck and guest vocalist Leah Lou crooning through the positively pretty "Nameless" wasn't what we were expecting, to be sure, but it's a great little song, and a nice mellow respite. There's plenty of big loud stuff, too, like the aforementioned "Tractor" and the impressive "Pile Driver", arguably the album's best tune — but this is definitely a peaks-and-valleys kind of record, with quiet forays like the beginnings to "Sophie" and "Punk Rock Movie" adding a cinematic feel to the whole thing.
It's hard to really put down into words what Mosley's going for here, which is another hallmark of his previous work. "Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food" is a big slovenly mess of an album, with a bunch of great songs, half-baked interludes, echoes of former glory bouncing off the same walls as 90's heavy alt-rock, modern metal crunch, and soulful acoustic deep-breathing. It doesn't all work, and occasionally it gets a little too scattershot for its own good — a few more solid, heavy rockers might have balanced the record a little more. But damn, it's good to see Mosley back in action and still on the job. (Must... resist... "it's a dirty job, but..." joke...) Hard rock has all kinds of technicians, faux rebels, and walking haircuts, but it's been damn short on characters for a good while now, and Chuck Mosley is a character, love him or hate him. Long may he warble.