HEAVY WAR - Primevals (Twenty Stone Blatt)
By the time you reach the chorus off opening song "Way Beyond Tore Up" you'll cross the line or stay on the other side. Primevals are Scotland's coolest band. They play irrepressible garage-blues rock and roll. There's no halfway point for them and neither should there be for you.
Well into their second life now (30 years and counting) and Primevals are at the top of their game. Younger bands take note. This is how the game's played. Primevals bounce from greasy blues ("Predilection for the Blues") to barreling rock with swirling keyboard twist ("The Lure of Desire") to brooding introspectiveness with psychedelic guitar trimmings ("Don't Be Afraid To Cry") in the space of a few songs.
The twin guitars of Tom Rafferty (back in the ranks) and Martyn Rodger lie at the heart of "Heavy War." Ironically considering the title, it's what they don't play that gives this record its character. They rub against each other, produce sparks, but never overdo it. They know when to pull back (the snarling "Hit the Peaks" is a good case in point) and Michael Rooney's occasionally Iggy-esque vocal occupy the middle ground, cajoling or commanding as the song dictates.
"High Risk Times" might sum up Primevals the best with its duelling guitars and tightly-wound rhythm. There's a triply edge to the outro as the band takes the song down the back road to Hell, burning excess baggage along the way.
This is Pretty Things R & B with a Detroit edge. Think The Hypnotics or the MC5, the latter without the same flash, throw in some Cramps and swampy blues. "Keep Coming Back" is the odd one out, a whimsical rock ballad with dissonant feedback built on an acoustic bedrock.
"Heavy War" is more of a grower than "Disinhibitor", the album that came before. Its charms only become apparent the more you listen. The grooves are lengthier, more drawn out. Closer "In a Violent Way" nails that - and more - over its five minutes, all sinewy guitars, "Fun House" alto sax and churning groove. Rooney repeatedly intones: "In a violent way…heavy wa...r" as the song reaches its feedback conclusion. Which only leaves the question: Whose side are you on? - The Barman
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DISINHIBITOR - Primevals (Twenty Stone Blatt)
This band goes back to 1983. They split up and re-animated themselves in 2005. The album itself dropped in 2010, and is worth moving heaven and earth to procure. If someone told you a tough rock and roll band with swagger to rival the New Christs came from Glasgow, would you believe them? Och, aye. Wake up and smell the thistles.
So let's get into it: "Disinhibitor" is 18 songs long - that's a double LP in the old language - and i can't pick a tune I would have scrapped. It's an opus that never wears out its welcome.It's music that you could loosely label 'garage' because its roots are clearly in the '60s, but it stands apart from most of the genre because it doesn't stick to the template.
The Primevals had their beginnings in a record stall run by singer Michael Rooney, toured with the Cramps, recorded tributes to Beefheart and the Byrds, played sessions for John Peel and put out a string of releases before turning their toes up. With that sort of background, you'd expect them to tap lots of sources. And they do with blues, hard free-form jazz and blustery declarations all part of the mix.
"American Road Trip" is the stand-out, an insistent rocker of a song with Rooney's not-to-be-fucked-with, Youngeresque vocal sitting hand-in-knuckle-duster with Malcolm McDonald's street tough guitar. Opener "Defying Science" is just as good. "The Shape That Life Bent Me Into" steps into shuffle territory with dagger sharp McDonald slide and a double-tracked vocal pulling an edge of psychosis into the mix. His work on the sparse "I've Never Seen You Looking So Clean" is just as worthy.
"Ho Chi Minh City" and the theremin-flecked "DT Blues" apply the rock blowtorch while there's a touch of Albert Ayler and the MC5 to "There Is No Other LIfe And This Is It", an instro interlude that's all alto sax and splashy cymbals. "Truth Is Marchin' In/Word Salad" is the other diversion, a similarly out there three-minute-plus trip that marries divergent ideas awfully well.
THERE IS NO OTHER LIFE AND THIS IS IT - The Primevals (Triple Wide)
They're not supposed to make records this good anymore.
The scenario's familiar: Eighties underground band with all the right roots re-animates and attempts to re-capture their past by pushing out a new album to the converted, right? We've seen it happen with ever-increasing frequency. Only this time it works.
The Primevals hail from Glasgow and did the rounds of the European paisley and pointy boots circuit for about two-thirds of the '80s, building a solid rep for soulful garage rock infused with equal parts MC5, Gun Club, Cramps, bastard soul band and delinquent acid fuzz.
Maybe it was all too much for some people but by the '90s, the Primevals had faded away. Members played in various combos, re-appeared under their own name in the Noughties and rolled tape over some new songs (and a cover) in 2007. "There Is No Other Life..." is the result and it takes a five-iron to 95 percent of the balls out there.
The Primevals not only know how rock and roll, they're up to speed on how to turn it inside out, make it swing and roll it right out in another guise. Blues, trash, swampy soul and a tinge of country compete for airtime in this 11-tracker.
They manage to come across like a Scots take on the Fleshtones. Hoots mon! Fitting that they tackle the Tones' "Screeaming Skull" with alacrity and conviction. If you're going to cover someone else's song, make sure it's a good one and make it your own. Opening cut "Wicked Willow Blues" fairly lays out a baseline: Michael Rooney's rich vocal mix it with blues harp and Malcolm McDonald's fat guitar tone, in the style of a flotilla of garage bands with R & B intentions. And then the super-charged power chording of "It Don't Feel Free" knocks your pigeon-holing into a cocked hat, with a twisted solo and reverb vocals taking us out.
And so it goes throughout, with each song an anthem in its own right. You'll find your own within a couple of plays but they don't come much better than "The Country Music Hall of Fame" (a sort of rejoinder to songs about being on the cover of Rolling Stone - which is an over-rated thing to be these days.)
"Where the Bones Are Buried" hangs out the Jeffrey Lee Pierce freak flag for all to see while "Cracked Radio Soundtrack" gets into the slide guitar action that's something of a Primevals trademark. Purty great country-rock, and no less catchy than the stunning "Take Me Out And Shoot Me" which, contrary to its title, is NOT country, or western.
"Shift Down A Gear" does anything but and its blurting bottom end and slipstream guitars sound like The Primevals have their Hounds of Hell on their tails. Which could well be right. - The Barman
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