Aug 212013

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Next month, the Primitives will release the 25th anniversary edition of Lovely, their debut album; it’s a quarter century old, but its sound is deathless. While the band may be best known for Lovely‘s leadoff track “Crash,” their sound combined Blondie and the Jesus and Mary Chain in a way that resounded with fans far longer and deeper than one song could ever account for. As for the Primitives themselves, they disbanded in the early ’90s, but twenty years later got back together to release Echoes & Rhythms, a cover album that pulls off the rare trick of showing them to be just as vibrant and relevant as they ever were.

The Primitives’ covers were few and far between back in the eighties, but even then they were about paying tribute to their influences rather than scrambling for a familiar song they could make into a hit. The five tracks below all show where the band came from, even as they look forward.

The Primitives – As Tears Go By (The Rolling Stones cover)

From a 1986 John Peel Session, “As Tears Go By” was a cover of one of the first Jagger-Richards songs ever written. In his autobiography, Keith Richards remembered thinking, “What a terrible piece of tripe,” and vowing that the Rolling Stones wouldn’t record it (“We’d have been laughed out of the goddamn room”) – a tune he changed after Marianne Faithfull made “Tears” a hit. The Primitives clamp on tight to it with their baby teeth, and attention can’t help but be paid.

The Primitives – I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges cover)

A 1987 Primitives gig featured this cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Iggy Pop & company wouldn’t be bested this night, but the Primitives absolutely make their mark, and not on some nearby hydrant.

The Primitives – I’ll Be Your Mirror (The Velvet Underground cover)

The Primitives never hid their devotion to the Velvet Underground, but it took until their second album Pure for them to commit their fandom to an official release, and then only as a CD bonus track (remember those?). Nico famously handled the vocals on The Velvet Underground and Nico; here, singer Tracy Tracy brings the sweetness – she’s the sugar to Nico’s mocha.

The Primitives – I’m Not Sayin’ (Gordon Lightfoot cover)

The Primitives’ 2012 reunion album, Echoes & Rhythms was made up entirely of songs associated with female singers, and pretty obscure ones at that – the best known was probably “I’m Not Sayin’,” a Gordon Lightfoot tune covered by Nico before she’d ever heard of Lou Reed (we talk about it more here). Funnily enough, guitarist PJ Court handles the lead vocals here, not Tracy.

The Primitives – Breakaway (Toni Basil cover)

Just because most of the songs the Primitives covered on Echoes were obscure didn’t mean its originators were. Take “Breakaway,” for instance; back in 1966, Toni Basil recorded it as the title track for a short film. Two years later, she appeared in Easy Rider. Six years after that, she did the choreography for David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour; another six years later, she choreographed David Byrne in the famous “Once in a Lifetime” video. And then, two years after that, she proved so fine she blew our minds with the worldwide smash “Mickey” (which was itself a cover of Racey’s “Kitty” – you heard it here first).

Get caught up on all things Primitives by visiting their website.

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