Three months into a pandemic, and their opening line is “We die young here”; right in the moment and straight to the point; then progressing on your hip-shaking, roller-coaster ride through the sixteen songs comprising Second Nature you’ll continue to snatch, both from Michael Rooney’s declamations, and the on-sleeve commentary, apposite observations – “the past is now the future, the future is now the past” – on the state we’re currently in.
One glance at the six gentlemen pictured on the album sleeve tells you dying young long ceased to be an option for any of The Primevals. The Glasgow six-piece grew up with The Stooges,The MC5, and the Magic Captain; they’ve been with us since the early 80s when they were recognised – by New Rose no less – as co-pilgrims of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Cramps. Allowing for the odd hiatus now and then, they’ve kept busy; no less than five albums of strong new material in the last dozen years speaks to their undiminished creativity .
Singer and writer Michael Rooney is the focal point with guitarist Tom Rafferty also remaining from the 1983 line-up; both drummer Paul Bridges and keyboard player John Honeyman have been around since the 90s. Bassist Ady Gillespie and multi-instrumentalist Martyn Rodger may be newer arrivals but they all know what they have to do and they do it well; Second Nature follows on near-seamlessly from 2017’s Dislocation.
Sixteen songs in fifty-five minutes is not hanging around but don’t be fooled; this may, at times, seem a wild career but it’s no mad rush. It’s gutsy, swampy, bluesy rock with a strong whiff of the garage; relentlessly questing and digging, propelled on waves of organ, while the guitars push and probe, underneath you’ll sometimes hear blasts of Yardbirds-like harmonica, saxophones wailing, and over it all Rooney’s litanies for troubled times where there’s no easy answers just the need to speak truths.
The arresting opener ‘We Die Young Here’ begins as a menacing stalk as rhythm, guitar, organ, and then voice take their places and proceedings are launched. ‘The Older I Get’ follows with a rousing “whoa-oa-oa” as Rooney drives the pack on with gusto; the bravado of age evident as, of course. “the older I get, the less I know”. It’s quickly clear that no-one sleeps here; stuff simply keeps on happening, turn off for a second and you’ll be pulled up suddenly by a change of mood or tempo
The varieties of ‘Heavy Freak Out’ defy its naming and it culminates in a Morricone moment replete with whistling. You could even dare to call‘Wanna Be Loved’ fragile while ‘Powershake’ presents as a ritual of escape from personal demons, and ‘User’ as self-critique with screaming harp. The culmination being ‘Reality’, truly a “swirl of the unwinding uneasiness” with Rooney singing from the bottom of a well.
Music for our times indeed. You can find the CD, or a twelve-track vinyl version, on their Bandcamp along with recent back catalogue. Also check out The Elevator Mood – Rooney’s much-praised duo project with James Doak, formerly of The Jolt – and his regular Friday afternoon radio show on Camglen Radio (also archived on Mixcloud).