Back in the late 80s the Primitives were bona fide pop stars. Credible ones too, who came up through the indie ranks to mainstream success. One could find them on a Thursday night’s Top of the Pops playing their latest hit single, pull a Tracy Tracy poster from the pages of Smash Hits, read a NME cover story, then catch them live on Saturday morning telly breaking out into an unrehearsed version of the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. It was an impressive feat and great whilst it lasted.
The Primitives’ reformation in 2009 came with little fanfare from the band, the music press or the general public. They simply eased themselves gently back: a gig here, an EP, a gig there, an album of 60s covers, more gigs, and then an LP of new songs and my album of 2014, Spin-O-Rama.
Currently doing a short tour they’re engaged in a new type of balancing act: that of the songs from their original three albums (1988-91) and those from the revitalised band. Across a near 20 song set there’s a roughly and 50/50 spilt and the beauty being every song is equally welcome. Everything fits together. There’s no this-is-from-our-new-album sinking feeling, just bang-bang-bang, one high octane buzzsaw thumper followed by another twisty jangler.
Early 45s “Buzz Buzz Buzz” and “Stop Killing Me” are succeeded by 2014 duet “Lose The Reason”; “Spin-O-Rama” is sandwiched between a throbbing “Sick Of It” and trippy “Thru The Flowers”; “Petals” sits next to older cousin “Spacehead”; radio favourite “Crash” slips into the whirling “Dandelion Seed”; a menacing “Rattle My Cage” makes way for an audience participating “Way Behind Me” and so on. It’s a relentless flow of punky-pop, sparkling without being overly polished.
Throughout the gig, the audience jostle amongst a television crew from Brazil. It might not be Top Of The Pops any more, and you’re more likely to read about them on a blog than the published music press, but The Primitives still look and sound to me like credible pop stars, and cultish underground ones at that. And those are always the best.