As if coasting on a feeling of omnipresent Aussie-like cool, the sophomore album from Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Primary Colors, shows ECSR as a band to be reckoned with…and then some. The band harkens back to the basics of garage and punk: few chords, simple songwriting, warm bass, clanging drums, guitar solos aplenty, an amateur sense of fun and a sense of passionate recklessness.
Although you can call it “the Stooges for our times” if you want to sound like a wagon-jumper, that description sounds a little off. 1970s minimalist, arty punk rockers Wire is closer in sound to them, anyway -- because, although Eddy Current Suppression Ring may take its ethos from the past, they also have great heart in what they’re doing. The music does not sound plainly derivative, as it does sound rather modern. It also possesses a smirk and twinkling eyes, as if saying, “This will always be our music! Not even 'the man' can take it from us!”
This sense of sticking it to “the corporate man” may not be as apparent in the lyrics, of which don’t really make any self-important, social satire comments with feelings of self-worth. Rather, the lyrics are introverted and directed at commonplace things, such as love, relationships, arguments and fixing the reception on the television (?).
Aside from the commentary about television apathy with “Colour Television,” the tunes are indeed about everyday things, and it is with this sense of “everyman” that gives the music what may be considered by some to be bland and unchallenging, but actually makes the music easily connect with the listener -- that is, anyone under any political/religious belief system. This makes the songs not alienate a certain set of people. This is also how they can possibly be connected to the Stooges -- both bands are purely about fun, without the baggage that many punk bands get into. Not challenging, yes; but unlike Jay Reatard's recent solo output, it actually doesn't sound brain dead, either.
The album begins with “Memory Lane“: “I took a walk down memory lane / everything looked quite the same / People smiled and people waved / and told me about the road they paved.” Primary Colors is made of these simplistic and amateur lyrics. Artistically, they are not hard in both their conception and message, but it is effective due to a number of reasons. First, vocalist Brendan Suppression with his thick Australian accent sounds like a cockier Mark E. Smith, yet it is toned down from the bark Smith does, but has more charm and an added Iggy Pop shrug in this laissez faire vocal work.
The aforementioned “Memory Lane” is a song that sounds so simple, but has a good amount of ingenuity behind it in its construction. It starts like a normal mid-tempo song does, but is much better, due to the steady rhythm section providing a groove you can really sink your teeth into, while the guitar and vocals add to the tension that mounts and mounts until the song settles into some nice guitar solos, before quieting down again into a chant of the refrain: “They’ve got that long term memory loss.“ This mainly mid-tempo song glides into the under-three-minute rocker, “Sunday’s Coming,” a track that might not have much whimsy behind it, but damn those instruments are great. The guitar and drums are locked into a solid funnel around Brendan’s voice.
The next song, “Wrapped Up” is an oddity -- it’s a garage-punk love song. It must be said that the instruments here are completely amazing, and memorable. Featuring a nice guitar hook and Brendan’s voice in poppy mode, the song picks up speed, but never explodes. This is also the reason that this band is more comparable to more psychedelic revival or garage rock bands than the Stooges, as they are not scared to play it beautiful.
Yet, this band rocks out more than once, too. On their two best songs, the single “Which Way to Go” and the aforementioned “Colour Television,” both are ripe for air guitar-playing rockability. The former may take a while to rock out, but the chorus is as rising as anything I've heard, while the latter is a solid rocker straight on through, and will make you reach for that replay button dozens of times.
Finally, the rest of the songs feature a diverse spectrum: instrumentals (“That’s Inside of Me“), the synthesizer-driven (“We’ll Be Turned On (Fix the Reception”)) to the catchy white-hot rocker, “I Admit My Faults.” Really, there’s not much bad on this album. Yet, it could have benefited from a better closer, as “I Don’t Want to Play No More” just does not feel right for a last song.
In a year in which punk was about experimentation, especially those of which who mixed it with the shoegaze / dream-pop genre -- Fucked Up, No Age and Vivian Girls -- Primary Colors is a record that shows that the good ol' fashioned routine of making just scorcher songs will never go out of style.