Live Review – Primitive Calculators, Melbourne 2010
News posted Tuesday, September 7 2010 at 04:00 PM.
Related: Primitive Calculators.
Yah Yah’s, Melbourne
Friday, September 3
Two quotations set the context for tonight’s Primitive Calculators show. The first comes from a ubiquitous local punter with an elephantine memory of the Melbourne punk rock scene. “These guys were into laptops before there were laptops.” The second observations is offered by a dedicated fan born mid-way through Primitive Calculators almost 30-year hiatus. “I love the Primitive Calculators. They invented moving to Fitzroy.”
Back in the day Primitive Calculators pursued an idiosyncratic and insurrectionist artistic, cultural and political agenda. In 2009, they fell back into performance for Chapter Music’s 18th birthday celebrations and received an unexpected invitation to play the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival at Mt Buller. Eighteen months later and Primitive Calculators continue to make the occasional sporadic appearance.
The passage of time is obvious in the band members’ appearances. Singer-guitarist Stuart Grant’s face is dominated by his excessively thick-rimmed glasses (like the spectacles of Dr TJ Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby, you can’t help but feeling there’s some metaphorical meaning in Grant’s optometric statement); if you didn’t know keyboardist Denise Hilton was an old punk agitator, you’d never guess; while, in sharp contrast, Frank Lovece and Dave Light look every bit the weathered punk rockers.
Proceedings start in ominous fashion. Grant moans incoherently into the microphone like an 18th-century asylum inmate protesting his innocence. Slowly the words crystallise: Mkkljkksn … Mykkl Jkkson … Michael Jackson. The song segues briefly into Jackson’s 1987 hit ‘Bad’, picking the pop riff up and discarding it like a carnivorous animal toying with its prey. Grant contorts with each beat, a man speaking in the irreverent tongue of the late 1970s Melbourne punk scene.
The show is simultaneously sloppy and tight. Hilton exchanges bemused facial expressions with Lovece and Light as melody and rhythm converse awkwardly like fellow foreign travellers in a strange land. Any glitches sit naturally in Primitive Calculators’ iconoclastic narrative. Grant’s attitude verges on goading: this is our punk rock statement, and everyone else can get fucked.
The set ends enigmatically, and there’s never even a hint of an encore. The audience tries to make sense of what it’s just experienced, but there’s no latent message to be discerned. Thirty years on, and the Primitive Calculators are as destructive and challenging as ever.
by Patrick Emery