Conjure Time - Hi Alerts (Twenty Stone Blatt)
Garage blues and freakadelia had a baby and they named it Hi Alerts...
Over the last two or three years, something very interesting has been happening in the Glasgow underground scene; in contrast to the blandness of current high profile Scottish acts, from the derivative stadium rock of Biffy Clyro to the glossy coffee table electro-pop of Chvrches (they really should get the "U" key fixed on their computer), an exciting garage rock scene has coalesced around one of Glasgow's greatest, yet least heralded rock groups, The Primevals.
Formed by Michael Rooney in 1983, The Primevals blazed an uncompromising path through the '80s Scottish music scene. Inspired by such luminaries as The Cramps, Tav Falco & Panther Burns and The Gun Club, Rooney's barmy army of fellow punk-forged rock 'n' roll obsessives had no truck with the prevailing trends. Their outsider status within the Scottish music scene was in many ways analogous to that of Radio Birdman when they established their "Detroit South" Real O-Mindset in Sydney, Australia in the mid-70s.
My first experience of The Primevals was witnessing two raging, elemental shows at the Tav Bar at Dundee University circa '85 and '86; the whole group carried the don't-fuck-with-us demeanour of Dr Feelgood, while conjuring up an intense gumbo of voodoo-punk swamp-blues, like a post-Stooges take on Creedence Clearwater Revival.
A support slot with The Cramps on the European leg of their "A Date With Elvis" tour earned The Primevals a cult following in France which exists to this day. The band was quiet during the '90s, but re-emerged with an excellent New Rose double CD anthology in 2005, followed by 2007’s scorching new album "There Is No Other Life And This Is It". The Primevals completed their return to active duty with a series of increasingly fervent live shows and two more excellent albums, 2010's eclectic "Disinhibitor" and two years later, the barnstorming "Heavy War".
2014 saw the release of The Primevals’ masterpiece, the soul and free jazz-enriched ‘Tales of Endless Bliss’. Recent live shows have been abetted by high energy support slots from some exciting new garage bands, notably Los Tentakills, The Reverse Cowgirls and The Brutes. Further releases are expected from these bands in the coming months, but first up is an intriguing side project featuring members of The Primevals and psychedelic freakniks, Los Tentakills.
Los Tentakills already have one accomplished album under their belts, the garage-punk jug band hoedown ‘We Have Levitation’, and have just released its follow-up, ‘The Devil’s Gospel for the Satanic Priesthood’. The Glasgow band’s Elevators-meet-the-MC5 live vibe gives their gigs the feel of a 60s happening rather than a conventional rock show.
Hi Alerts consists of Primevals Michael Rooney, Ady Gillespie and Martyn Roger, Celina Ozymandias and Wild Al Hotchkiss from Los Tentakills, and former Nutmeg City Group drummer/songwriter and long-time Primevals' associate Rhod Burnett.
Described by Rooney as "a fun thing", Hi Alerts recorded eight tracks which have been released as a CD mini-album called Conjure Time, with the possibility of a 10" vinyl edition to follow. ‘Conjure Time’ is a spontaneous, celebratory album very much in the spirit of Ty Segall and Tim Presley's ‘Hair’, or Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben's much-loved 1975 collaboration, "Gil e Jorge". It's far from polished or honed, but captures the spirit of life-affirming gone-ness that made garage classics like The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" and Randy Alvey and the Green Fuz's "Green Fuz" so essential.
The songs sound like they have been recorded pretty much as they have been written, fast and loose in a relaxed, free-wheeling mode. Opener "Four Walls" is a raw and raucous sibling of The Spades/13th Floor Elevators' You're Gonna Miss Me, but Hi Alerts' secret weapon is revealed on the second track, "Broken Heart", when Celina Ozymandias joins Rooney on vocals. It's a fantastic vocal combination, more in the spirit of Rowland S Howard and Lydia Lunch's "Shotgun Wedding’" than Nancy & Lee.
Building up a head of steam on the first three tracks, the centrepiece is "Straight Ahead to My Soul", an instant garage rock classic which demands to be heard live, or at least, very loud. "I'm On The Run" is another highlight, an irresistible garage-country track which opens up a vein worthy of further exploration.
Primevals' "new boy" and long-term Nutmeg City Group stalwart Ady Gillespie provides the low end, bringing an on-the-one emphasis akin to Richard Hell's massively under-rated bass-playing on the Voidoids' ‘Blank Generation’ album, but with added melodic movement. Rhod Burnett brings a jazz-man’s touch to his visceral garage drumming, with a swing and feel reminiscent of the early Stones albums and Rock Action’s prize-fighter slugging for The Stooges and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band . Whilst on Hi Alerts duty, Celina Ozymandias leaves her trademark Danelectro Longhorn bass in its case as she steps up to the mic.
"Conjure Time’"captures the camaraderie of the Glasgow garage scene and serves as a boisterous introduction the city's rock 'n' roll underground. The existential joi de vivre that bursts from these tracks won't be found in the mainstream; as Captain Beefheart once quipped: "If you want to be a different fish, you've gotta jump out of the school"; are you ready to take that leap, brothers and sisters?
Buy it here