A good general rule for a band attempting to make an album after re-forming would be to do no harm. Don’t sully the past by making an uninspired update of your classic sound, don’t try to be modern and come off sounding desperate…don’t suck, basically.
The Primitives already passed this test with flying colors thanks to their album of ’60s covers, Echoes and Rhymes, which they released in 2012. While it was impressive that the band, and especially vocalist Tracy Tracy, sounded like they hadn’t aged a single year, the true worth of their reunion could only be measured with an album of original songs. 2014’s Spin-O-Rama is that album and let’s just say that if Echoes and Rhymes was a nice welcome back, this is the album they should have made in the early ’90s as a follow-up to Pure. Working with longtime collaborator Paul Sampson, the group rushes through 11 songs in 29 minutes in a colorful flash of noisy indie pop that’s carefully crafted and full of excitement. Tracy is still drinking regularly from the fountain of youth, Paul Court’s guitar work is impressive as it ranges from overdriven noise to chiming neo-psych haziness, and the overall sound of the album is punchy and bright, maybe even more so than their best work from their original run. While there may not be a giant hit like “Stop Killing Me” or “Sick of It” here, the songs are consistently hooky and fun, and a few of them would easily fit on an updated hits collection: the title track, with its super perky melody and insistent go-go beat, the hard-rocking “Petals,” and the almost shoegaze-heavy “Dandelion Seed” are three early picks, though that tends to change with every listen. Another cool thing for bands to do when they come back is to add some new colors to their paintbox and The Primitives do that a couple times, like on the dreamy “Follow the Sun Down,” which has a nice garage pop sound, or the Paul Court-sung psych-folk jangler “Working Isn’t Working.” Court actually takes more vocal leads than one might expect and his monotone balances well with Tracy’s sweet croon. When they sing together, like on “Lose the Reason,” they sound so good you wish they did it more often. Making more albums is something else the group should do more often.
They’ve done the rare trick of coming back even stronger than they finished, making music on Spin-O-Rama that sounds like classic Primitives, but also making music good enough to be mentioned in a conversation about the best guitar pop happening in 2014.