Cult indie heroes The Primitives return to Manchester as part of a very special series of shows making the 30th anniversary of their debut album ‘Lovely’. Part of the post-Smiths pre-Stone Roses indiepop boom of the 1980s, The Primitives became favourites of John Peel, who, along with the music press, lumped them together along with contemporaries Transvision Vamp and The Darling Buds into something of a subgenre unimaginatively named “Blonde”… because each of the bands were fronted by blonde-haired women (…yeah, that’s it. Not a huge amount of thought behind that one). However, The Primitives earned success far greater than the majority of those around them thanks to hit single ‘Crash’- which had a resurgence in the mid-1990s after featuring in the soundtrack to Dumb & Dumber, attaining pop culture immortality.
Supporting The Primitives are two-piece London outfit made up of singer/drummer Claire and guitarist Paolo, who fire into their razor-sharp garage rock-bubblegum pop hybrid, bludgeoning soaring 60s girl-group melodies into submission with heavy-duty beats (Claire following the line spanning The Velvet Underground, Jesus & Mary Chain, The Raveonettes and Glasvegas, stood up behind a stripped-back kit- less is more), while Paolo lays a foundation of lo-fi white noise to riff over- raw and unfiltered, each song shuddering to a halt barely passing the two-and-a-half-minute mark and rarely hitting more than 3 chords- short but incredibly sweet, leaving nothing but satisfaction even with a relatively short set. With the release of their second full-length coming very soon, Young Romance have found themselves in some high-profile positions of late and supporting a band like The Primitives will do wonders for them.
Hauling the clock back 30 years, The Primitives hit the stage to raucous response- the chiming ‘I’ll Stick With You’ giving way to the punkish energy of ‘Stop Killing Me’ and the muscular, swaggering ‘Sick Of It’, all with infectious earworm singalongs (almost every song features a wordless vocal hook begging for more voices) found every step of the way. Frontwoman Tracy Tracy spins, skips and sashays around the stage with boundless enthusiasm, complete with quite frankly amazing silver glittery ankle boots, reaching out into the massed throng of sweating, jubilant humanity, tambourine in hand. Although keeping mainly to Lovely, the band pull material from their entire catalogue, with several songs from 2010’s Spin-O-Rama featured, blending seamlessly with their mid-to-late-80s heyday, such as the fuzzed out ‘Really Stupid’- the night is less a celebration of Lovely, more simply a celebration of the band.
The Primitives manage a feat that is rather rare in live music- keeping a gig’s energy up while playing an acoustic, sat-down mini-show of the somewhat more Byrdsian songs from Lovely, the highlight of this being the light, summery ‘Don’t Want Anything To Change’, acting as a very slight cooldown from the spiky, sparkling indiepop of before, while later in the set ‘You Are The Way’ (from the hugely underrated and unjustly-forgotten album Galore) and ‘Thru The Flowers’ point towards the college-rock slacker anthems of the likes of Velocity Girl and Veruca Salt with loping bass and laid-back distorted strumming. Firing on all cylinders, the foursome build up through the latter portion of their show, reaching their peak with a gleeful, turbo-driven run through ‘Crash’, the band barely audible above the singing, adoring audience. Three decades in, Tracy and company can still pack them in, and they can certainly still pack a punch. Lovely stuff- both figuratively and literally.
Words and photos by Liam Moody. The Primitives performed at The Ruby Lounge on Wednesday 27th June 2018.