Friday, 19 August 2011

Court in the Act

Bombshell: The Hits and More, The Primitives
In all walks of life, from pop music to drug-dealing, some people achieve far more success than their talents deserve and some far less.
Paul Court
, the song-writer for the late-’eighties-and-a-bit-of-the-’nineties indie group The Primitives, is one of the second group and I’m not sure his largely unrewarded talents don’t apply to drug-dealing too. Like a drug, music is designed to alter your consciousness and some of the songs on this compilation album are perfect little pills of pop, filling your brain with a two- or three-minute rush of jingly-jangly melodic pleasure. And maybe jungly pleasure too: The Primitives were a primitive band in the garage-and-bumblegum-pop tradition, particularly when they played live. Female vox, occasional male backing vocals, guitar, bass and drums, and that was it. There was no pretension about them, but they achieved the kind of a-lot-in-a-little simplicity that only a highly intelligent and highly skilful songwriter can give a band.
Crash”, their most famous song, both opens and closes the album (apart from the hidden track, which is unexpected in two ways), first as album version, then as demo, and some of the other songs come into two versions too, whether demo or acoustic. I enjoy the chance to hear the different interpretations, but this does reflect the brevity of their career, which stretched from about 1987 to about 1992. Unfortunately, a twice-misspelt “Way Behing Me (Acoustic)” and the appearance of “Secrets (Demo)” as the already-heard album track rather than the demo also reflect the sloppiness of the German company that put the compilation out. Court deserved much better, and further proof of that is in the cover version that’s thrown in too, the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By”. It’s given the light treatment of the early Primitives and isn’t anywhere near as good as Court’s own compositions, I’d say. Perhaps that’s why he chose it, and perhaps the darker sound of the songs off their final album, “Glamour”, reflect his frustration at not achieving the success that seemed to await him in the beginning. But though bands with attractive female singers can get attention more easily, they find it harder to get taken seriously. The Primitives never did drop any bombshells in the end, and I’d suspect that the title of this compilation is a self-ironizing acknowledgment of that, as well as a reference to Tracy’s gleaming blonde locks. (10/xii/2005)

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