New Primitives are, to say the least, one of the Twin Cities’ interestinger outfits. Something of a holdover from the 70s, this band long harks to a hell-bent West Coast groove, heavy on the percussion and sparse, sinewy melody, given to, when you catch them at a club or in concert, jamming ‘til the cows come home.
War horses Stan Kipper (timbales, traps) and Chico Perez (congas), who’ve been at it so long they may as well’ve been there when dirt was invented, are the core. Kipper’s in front, singing most leads with Perez rocking intricate support, weighing in now and then on backup vocals. They fill personnel out as fate allows. After the band’s debut, New Primitives, it seemed ungodly guitarist, gifted singer-songwriter Javier Trejo had cemented an evolved dimension. New Primitives, yes, had introduced themselves, serving notice the kick-ass-and-take-names Afro-Cuban rock sheriff was in town. Trejo played and sang his ass off. Alas, he didn’t work out. So, presently, Kipper and Perez have reasonably adept Joel Schaan and Park Evans in Trejo’s stead. Neither terribly excites. They are, however, adequate and, from time to time, interesting.
As well, sax ace Brian “Snowman” Powers played New Primitives and wrote that disc’s hellacious crowd-rouser “Bring Me Down.” Powers remains associated with the band, but is in too much demand as a producer and sideman to regularly gig with them. Accordingly, audiences settle for Daryk “Durwood” Narum who undeniably can play his axe, but, well, is nowhere near Snowman’s caliber. It goes on. Sometimes Tommy Peterson subs for Matt “Matteo” Stevens on bass guitar (you have to witness Stevens doing Rick James’ “Mary Jane” to believe just how bad this cat is). The only thing you can be sure of on any given night is that there won’t be subs for Stan Kipper or Chico Perez.
The new album is American Nomad. Slicker, more polished around the edges than faithful followers would expect. New Primitives had, well, yeah, a primitive quality—a quality that kicked ass and took names. American Nomad doesn’t cut it. It’s over-produced. “Must Be Love,” a song that in the club, makes you get up, grab a gal or guy and hit it hard from the hip on the dance floor, comes off as a tedious exercise in techno experimentation. “Didn’t I Tell You,” an enduring New Primitives staple, is forced to frenetic excess, including the silly use of an echo chamber, and comes off as just plain tired. Bottom line, Stan Kipper and Chico Perez could have and should have done a whole lot better than this.
A diehard fan of the band, I’d love to be able to say American Nomad was worth the wait it took since New Primitives. That, though, would be lying.
Photo courtesy New Primitives