Cat On The Wall [Es]: "Spin-O-Rama" [Interview]
It’s sad, really, isn’t it? That such a phrase can be uttered in a time when, realistically, charting music should be bigger, more vibrant and, above all else, more fun and exciting than ever.
Just over twenty five years ago, the vibrant age of brightly-coloured upstarts on music television – take, for example, late 80s to early 90s Top of the Pops, was in full steam. But the age of fun party bands on television seems to have disappeared – and no, I don’t mean drivel like One Direction. Despite some well-placed efforts, today’s televised music has lost the colour, optimism and thriving enthusiasm it once had – it now seems to form a cynical commentary on its own shallow, poorly executed whims – which sells millions of mp3s. Hundreds of thousands of plastic discs. But the true fun factor has long since disappeared, along with the age of the music magazine, the music video, etc…
It was a vibrant time for British Pop Culture, and it’s very much worked into the UK’s public consciousness. A time I’ve heard a few folk dub ‘Cool Brittannia.’
While it’s true that such ideals of any era are flawed, the UK did seem to produce some big indie exports – and they all had a certain edge. Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and the Wedding Present are all dubbed to be part of that bizarre little pop-up period of fuzzy poppy-groups that didn’t quite fit into what had happened before it – and were loved for it.
Speaking of this series of fun, fuzzy, brightly-coloured upstarts on Top of the Pops…who remembers the Primitives?
(Alright, we’re cheating a bit – this is an unofficial video – an extended version of their smash single, Crash!)
Starting all the way back in 1985 and going through a few different line up changes, the Primitives built a fine group in the form of Tracy Tracy, Tig Williams, Paul Court and Steve Dullaghan, whom left in 1989 to be replaced byPaul Sampson. While it could be argued that their music was not the finest of the era or the most iconic, looking back on footage proves that they carry a certain quality that instantly evokes the time period – far further than other groups in the loose-fitting genre.
In 1992, The Primitives disbanded after a commercial failure with their third album, Galore. It wasn’t a terrible album, but the era they embodied so perfectly – and the era that, in turn, seemed to embody them to the public – was drawing to a close. All fell silent, until the sad death of Steve Dullaghan in 2009. The oncoming tributes and obituaries seemed to prove that the group wasn’t forgotten, and the untimely death of the bass player brought three friends back together.
There was a tribute gig to say farewell to an impressive bassist and close friend. That was meant to be all. But, as any artist will know, creative juices do have a tendency to flow freely with the right people…
Lo and behold, the Primitives return to the circuit, with a fine asset in the form of the internet at their side and a new savviness integrated into the superstructure, the foundations seem to be as strong as ever they were. A new bassist is in the mix, Mr. Raph Moore, who has stepped up admirably to the bar and continue that iconic fuzziness only bass and guitar can provide.
In 2011, they released their first new album since 1991, Echoes and Rhymes, which proved to carry the same punch as their earlier work – with that new savviness and refinement only adding to what they were capable of. It release was mostly composed of covers – very respectable ones and some great choices, too, but it seems that was simply a lead in to our latest spectacle…
Spin-O-Rama - the first Primitives album to be all-new material for twenty two years.
It’s testament to the timeless quality of this genre. It could have happened ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago and wouldn’t seem too out of place. It doesn’t even seem out of place now – it seems remarkably unique for not trying to follow what the rest of the world is thriving on, not trying to revolutionise themselves for a modern market, and, rather, gelling around in that little bubble the Primitives seem to blissfully maintain.
This is an album that couldn’t really come from any other group. It couldn’t really come from any other people. It’s an inoffensive album with no interest in providing the fake rebellion so many musicians desperately try to imitate. It doesn’t try to provide a harsh, harrowing dip into the human psyche. Instead, it evokes a fairground. Each track is a different ride with a different experience – which ties in pretty beautifully to a title like Spin-O-Rama.
There’s waltzers, there’s merry-go-rounds, there’s ghost trains and there’s some surprisingly turbulent miniature rollercoasters, too. All of them maintain a brisk pace, and while the theming elements and scenery may at first seem a little scarce, the true enjoyment doesn’t build from extravagant surroundings or unusual, exotic themes. It’s about how the journey, the ride itself makes you feel. How you react. Whether you come off laughing or crying.
It’s difficult to pick out certain tracks from the album. I don’t think it’s meant to be the sort of release that desperately throws purposefully built ‘singles’ to pluck from for a label’s benefit. It’s simply in the middle of the countryside, filled with little bits of escapism with multi-coloured lightbulbs, bright paint schemes and buzzing machinery ready to entertain you whenever you turn to them.
Sit down, strap in, and let each attraction work its magic. It won’t quite be a thrill-seeker’s paradise. If you’re expecting something truly scary, rough or harrowing you won’t find it here. If you’re looking for a grand patch of brightly-coloured pleasantry and escapism you’ll have far more chance here than anywhere else.
Tig, Tracy, Paul and Raph are providing the same sunny bubblegum escapism that so many people yearn to see return from the days of ‘Cool Brittannia’. It’s as if not a single day has passed – and that inimitable Primitives experience is destined to reverberate from hundreds of hi-fis up and down the country.
Give them a heros welcome, ladies and gents – things were looking a little dull!
We were lucky enough to snare founding member, vocalist and bassist Paul Court for just long enough to ask him a few questions…
Cat on the Wall: Hello there, and welcome to Cat on the Wall – thank you for taking the time to talk to us. How are you all today?
Paul C: As well as can be expected, thanks – The others seemed okay last time I saw them!
COTW: Please, introduce yourselves to our readers – although I expect most of them above a certain age will need no introduction!
PC: We’re a fuzzpop, sunshine punk, psychedelic bubblegum band…that began 28 years ago at primary school!
COTW: We’re here today to talk about your new album – the first for twenty two years to be built of nothing but new material – Spin-O-Rama. How would you describe it to the uninitiated?
PC: It’s a musical fairground ride. It swirls you around, swoops you up into the sky, then floats you back down, and, at the end… you’ll hopefully want to get back on for another go!
COTW: Would you say that this release is pure ‘Primitives’ – that being, a perfect continuation of the material so many grew up with? Or have you, instead, tried a new direction?
PC: People who’ve heard it say it sounds as if no time has passed. Which, to us, is a compliment – because we were in our own little bubble back then, and have pretty much climbed back inside it this past couple of years since reforming. So yes, the album is quintessentially Primitives.
COTW: The Studio is an environment that can cross a lot of opinions – some love it, some hate it. How did you find the process of recording this particular album? Did you hit any trouble mapping out the record, or was it all smooth sailing?
PC: I get quite obsessive in the studio, and it’s not always a pleasurable experience. Once the vocals and guitars are down, I start to relax a bit.
It’s comparable to flying in many ways. I’ve done it many times, and the outcome is highly likely to be the desired one, but there’s still that sense of uncertainty and apprehension…and relief when it’s over!
COTW: At this stage in your career, would you say that your experience has proven beneficial? Do you think that producing music is now easier than ever?
PC: Well, we can look back and see all the cheesiness and bullshit…so we know what to avoid if it tries to creep up on us again.!
Producing music is easier, insomuch as there’s technology at hand to realise ideas quicker, and with less effort, but we always try to remember that we made some of our best records when we were musical idiots – so we try to utilize some of that original ‘idiot factor’!
COTW: It’s no secret that the music industry the group has returned to in 2009 is very different to the one you left in 1992. Have you found it difficult to adapt? Or do you find the current scene more liberating?
PC: We were a bit ‘heads in the sand’ about the music industry when we first came around – with only a vague knowledge of what was going on! So we were shafted accordingly. It’s not that hard to get your head around stuff, and self manage in this day and age, especially if, like in our case, the groundwork was done years ago.
COTW: The internet is, depending who you ask, either the bane or the lifeblood of the entertainment industries. Do you think it’s benefited music – and yourselves – as a whole? Or has it made for a more difficult set of circumstances?
PC: I doubt we’d exist if it wasn’t for the internet.
I think there’s this sort of Youth extension thing, that comes from being able to revisit the music from your younger days – or anyone’s younger days for that matter. Whereas before, these things were forgotten about or discarded, and people grew up and took up crown green bowling or got allotments.
It’s as if there isn’t linear time anymore, everything is just laid out on the same table in a big jumble. You can be cynical about these things, but that’s how it seems to work these days. If it wasn’t for social media, we’d never have been able to reconnect with old fans or gain new ones. The extent of our comeback would have been a gig in the back of a pub somewhere, which is actually what I thought a Primitives reunion would entail anyway – so nice to be proved wrong!
COTW: Do you think that there are big things for the future of The Primitives? What do you intend to do next?
PC: We’ve been asked to play a couple of UK festivals next year, and we’re going to Japan in February! The only UK show for this year is the album launch at the Garage in London on October 18. Got a few Spanish dates too!
COTW: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us! We hope we’ll be hearing more from you very soon -any final words for friends, fans, or even ourselves?!
PC: Come and see us at The Garage in London on the 18th of October – We’re playing a lot of the new album along with all the old faves!
Spin-O-Rama is due to be released by Elefant Records on October the 14th. It comes with a hearty recommendation and some candy floss.
As mentioned by Mr. Court, they’ll be at The Garage on the 18th of October. If Cat on the Wall wasn’t stuck Oop North, we’d be there ourselves!
Don’t forget to visit the Primitives – and bring yourselves up to speed on the past twenty two years – on their official website, here:
And of course on that Facebook thing…
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