Almost-but-not-quite is how I would best describe Primitive Notion.
Sonically the track is a blast, with the drum performance in particular being some of the strongest on Get Ready. Seriously… there are extraordinary sections in Primitive Notion where the wonderfully-clattering snare loop pattern is then bludgeoned with a bull-in-a-china-shop rush of cymbals. The later addition of rim-shots to emphasise the backbone pattern is ace. I already hold Stephen Morris in the highest esteem as one of the all-time great drummers/programmers, but productions like this are next-level.
In fact here is a rare photo of Morris limbering up for the Primitive Notion session:
Hooky’s main bass riff is quintessentially simple but excellent, and wraps around the drum pattern like a snake ’round a branch. There are just enough synth elements – e.g. – the subtle reverbed bells that precede the vocal chorus, the sweeping strings behind the bridge and chorus, the acid bleeps, and the gravelly bass tones and sequences in the breaks – that mark the music of Primitive Notion as classic New Order.
But… and I can’t help but look right at Bernard with my critical smile, that it’s the lyrics – plus the thin-sounding vocal production (which sounds so dry in contrast to the raucous party happening behind him) – that hold this song back from glory. Lyrically the song suffers the same fate as many of the mid and latter-period Electronic productions, in that it sounds like Bernard has tried too hard to stick to conventions of rhyme and meter, squeezing out forced words and resulting in clangers like the “…drink this magic potion” / “…’til the day that you, day that you die” couplet, and the truly awful “not even a zoo would impound you” nugget*. And yet, like so many other New Order songs, Sumner redeems himself with a quality soaring chorus – sung with feeling rather than the in-store announcement delivery of Primitive Notion’s verses and bridges.
Had the band sent Bernard home for some minor re-writing, and even brought Dawn Zee in for some backing vox, then perhaps Primitive Notion could have ended up the true nugget** that its potential showed.
* Chicken, not gold…
** Gold, not chicken…
Available on: Get Ready