Words: James Frostick
Proto-punk legends Primitive Calculators are putting the gears in motion ahead of the release of their forthcoming album On Drugs. ‘Power’ is the latest track from the group, which blends potent punk sensibilities with a glitchy electronic inclination. A timely song, ‘Power’ uses blunt efficiency to communicate the band’s anger at the widespread abuse of power and privilege, and the way the uncaring individuals in charge only care about accumulating more power at the cost of others.
The last time I wrote about Primitive Calculators was on November 10, 2016. I put down some thoughts on the track ‘On Drugs’ – still a great tune. It was an important date. Well, it actually came a few days after an important date – November 8, 2016, the date of the most recent United States presidential election. We all know what occurred on that day, and a lot has happened since. Of course, there’s no correlation between me writing about Primitive Calculators and the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the position of POTUS, but if anyone was fit to comment on the lunacy that occurred it’s Primitive Calculators’ vocalist and chief agitator Stuart Grant, so it seemed apt at the time.
‘POWER’ – the newest single from the proto-punk icons – also comes at a fitting time. The monumental system that has been oppressing for generations has fortified its foundations since the beginning of the Trump era, and corrupt and negligent bureaucrats are tightening their grips on positions of power. It’s this abuse of privilege and status (and the callous ways it is wielded) that draws the ire of Primitive Calculators here, forming the basis of this seething and forceful offering. While this ideological and protest-heavy lean is nothing new to long-time fans of Primitive Calculators, there’s more in the mix this time that is worth mentioning.
The past few times I’ve penned my thoughts about Primitive Calculators, there’s always been mention of the group’s propensity to add groove and dynamic rhythm. That trend has seemingly reached an apex here, with Primitive Calculators lacing their propulsive gale with an abrasive techno tilt. I’m not overly versed on the multitude of electronic classifications, but there’s an undeniable groove to the track that sees punk skronk meld with bass-heavy beats and tech-y glitch, with a dash of hip-hop courtesy of Melbourne MC (and Stuart’s son) OGO.
As usual, Stuart Grant wastes no breath on lyrical flourishes. His snarled evocations paint a gritty picture of the climb to the top of the societal heap and the unwavering dedication to accumulating more, more, more. He describes power as an almost primal force – a singular drive to capture it and harness it with no other reason than to just have it. To those that seek it out, the need for more power is all-encompassing – morals fall by the wayside, lies overrule truths and a betrayal is a small price to pay when the reward is a bigger piece of the pie.
“Power is everything / power it is what it is what it is / makes you do what you do / power is power is power is power“
You’d think Primitive Calculators have seen enough of this in their four decades of activity. Do they think they’re wasting their breath by this point? Two steps forward, three steps back – that’s kind of how the world is operating these days. After so much time screaming at the system, it’s a testament to their passion that they still have a voice. If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s that rallying against injustices is not a lost cause. Primitive Calculators aren’t flag bearers for revolution, but they are a forceful voice of opposition in a world that shouts down dissenting opinions. What’s great about Primitive Calculators is that they’ll always shout back.
Another day, another system of oppression. Another abuse of power, another fight.
‘POWER’ features contributions from original Primitive Calculators members Stuart Grant, Denise Rosenberg, David Light and the late Frank Lovece. New band member Mo Louie and The Pocket Calculators – Grace, Stella Electrica and rapper OGO – also feature alongside label mate Andrea Blake (Vacuum/Asps) on synths and drum machines.
For the curious, ‘POWER’ will feature on the band’s upcoming album On Drugs. On Drugs is slated to arrive in winter through the esteemed It Records. If you want to catch Primitive Calculators in the flesh, you can do so when It Records celebrates its 4th birthday at The Tote on March 24. Pocket Calculators will be performing a set, but you’ll also be able to see New War, Time For Dreams, Taipan Tiger Girls, Little Desert, Vacuum, Hardata and Other Places – a formidable line-up by any standards.
Image credit: Photoyunist