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Sunday, April 1, 2012
Primitons - Don't Go Away: Collected Recordings - A brief overview + 1983 tape
A lot has been made of the fabled "new south sound," both on these pages and elsewhere. I'm generally speaking of the often telltale stripe of left-of-the-dial, Rickenbacker-wielding pop provocateurs from such 1980s locales such as Athens, Georgia or North Carolina, who armed with a small bevy of songs and a modicum of aspiration would gravitate to the counsel and coveted production capabilities of one Mitch Easter. During the mid-80s there would seem to be a ton of bands befitting said stereotypes, most of whom aside from the big fish (i.e. REM, dB's, Matthew Sweet) faded into long distant memories...and are now the province of music bloggers and archivists such as myself.
After teasing us die-hards for a few years, Arena Rock Recordings have finally seen it fit to shine a light on one such departed Dixie conglomeration, Birmingham, AL's Primitons whose small but powerful discography is enshrined on the chronological, eighteen-track Don't Go Away, compiling their '85 self-titled mini album for Throbbing Lobster Records, the Don't Go Away ep (1986) and their 1987 parting shot, Happy All the Time. The Primitons lineup, sometimes a trio, and at one point a quartet, involved a constant nucleus of guitar/keyboard toting frontman Mats Roden and percussionist Leif Bondarenko. The group boasted an advanced sound beyond sweet minor chords and tingly arpeggios, one that's hard to properly distill in the written word. The initial seven-song salvo that comprises Don't Go Away was tracked under the auspices of Mitch Easter, and whether by osmosis or whatever you choose to peg it, Let's Active had profoundly rubbed off on Roden and Co. Nonetheless the early Primitons material boasts an indigenous sonic strain of it's own, sparked by an uncanny chemistry interwoven between it's three architects, resulting in fluid, jittery jangle-pop with no shortage of idiosyncratic overtones. From Alabama you say?
That aesthetic carried over to the three song ep this compilation shares it's namesake with. In addition to the title cut which became a fan favorite, the record also included the Primitons faithful reading of The Left Banke's "Something On My Mind." By the time they got around to recording their second and final album, Happy All the Time, Roden's six-string wrangling was buttressed with considerably more musculature, but that extra buzzsaw grit didn't diminish the Primitons rich, resonant arrangements and melodic moxie (although per the liner notes, many fans had a preference to the first record over Happy). A dozen-and-a-half song oeuvre is slim no matter how you slice it, but the band make every moment count, and so far as these ears are concerned, they could throw down with the best of what their like-minded contemporaries Tommy Keene and The Plimsouls had to give. The Primitons body of work is that considerable and praiseworthy.
A funny thing precipitated the release of Don't Go Away. On Ebay, I recently found what appeared to be a homemade Primitons demo tape, dating back to 1983, two years before they had a record out. It was in fact a genuine Prim's artifact, however the four songs on the cassette weren't "demos," so much as rough mixes of four tracks that would appear on the Easter produced mini-LP for Throbbing Lobster. The variances are slight, with the most prominent difference being the allotment of bass guitar in the mix. "Five Lines" has a slightly different ending than the finished product. In any case, instead of sharing a song or two from the CD, I'm giving you the tape to whet your appetite. If you like what you hear, you will love the top-notch mastering job on the reissue, which is available physically/digitally from Amazon, and also through iTunes and Emusic (though if you buy the CD you also get a download code to eleven unreleased songs!). No April Fools joke people. The track list and link to the cassette follows below.
01. You'll Never Know
03. Five Lines
04. She Sleeps