Monday, October 13, 2014

Papernut & The Primitives

The album on the left is There's No Underground by Papernut Cambridge. The one on the right is Spin-O-Rama by The Primitives. Both albums are released today, and so I thought I'd review them side-by-side, to find out what else they have in common. Words in red refer to the Papernut album, while the blue words are all about The Primitives.

With There's No Underground, Ian Button's outfit have created a pleasantly odd little world in which people manage to get by without any help from the government or, uh, the tube. The album is populated by such oddball characters as 'The King of the Prams and the Dustbins' and the mysterious 'umbrella man'. This is the sort of thing you'd find on a Mansun album, but the songs actually sound more like a cross between The Kinks and Robyn Hitchcock.

Spin-O-Rama, as far as I can tell, aims to evoke the dizzy euphoria that you get on those funfair rides that spin you around until you vomit.

This sort of thing.

In this sense, the album succeeds spectacularly - the songs are quick blasts of three-minute pop (and sometimes not even that long) that, piled on top of each other, leave you wondering what on earth just happened and, in spite of the slightly nauseous feeling, kind of keen to have another go. Lose the Reason - my personal highlight, with a really ripping organ part - is an excellent example:

I first discovered Papernut Cambridge through the 69 Love Songs cover project, to which the band contributed this smashing cover of The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure:

In light of this, I was obviously looking for a little bit of that Stephin Merritt magic in There's No Underground, and actually, I wasn't disappointed. My favourite song on the album is When She Said What She Said, and that's a very Magnetic Fieldsian track; the title is reminiscent of such Merritt classics as The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Said and The Things We Did and Didn't Do, and the tune itself wouldn't have sounded out of place on The Wayward Bus.

Now, when Spin-O-Rama first landed in my inbox, I didn't *think* I knew who The Primitives were - I skimmed the email, flagged it for later investigation, and had more or less forgotten about it by the time I heard Crash (the band's 1988 smash hit) on 6 Music some days later:

"Ooh," I thought as that incessantly catchy refrain caught my ears for the first time. "I like this song!" I quickly Googled the lyrics and, blow me down, it was that same band whose new album I had recently been sent! Eager for more of the same, I re-opened that flagged email and downloaded the album, eyeballing the accompanying press release while I waited.

Crash had given me the impression that The Primitives were similar to The Breeders, but the names dropped in that email - The Kinks, The Magnetic Fields - suggested something slightly different. Sure enough, Spin-O-Rama was more of a pop whirligig than an alt-rock chopper, and it was closer in sound to The School than The Breeders (unsurprising, since The School and The Primitives are both signed to Elefant Records).

Overall, There's No Underground is a lovely little listen, brimming with the slightly psychedelic yet wonderfully polite oddness that England has always been so good at producing.

I have to say, I couldn't really hear The Magnetic Fields in Spin-O-Rama, but that doesn't mean it isn't great fun. My favourites are the faster numbers like Petal and the aforementioned Lose the Reason; frankly, I'd rather have had an album full of these than a disc that's broken up by slowed-down psychedelic stuff like Velvet Valley. A real spinning ride thingy wouldn't grind to a halt mid-whirl - why should the album that seeks to emulate it?

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