Hailing from Ontario, A Primitive Evolution is a bright spot in the sea of modern rock bands. While remaining new and fresh in a way that blends today’s sound with the elemental styles of early Alt-Rock, the trio obviously knows the roots of their craft, and maintain a vision of where to steer the ship on the horizon.
With a range of styles represented on this collection, it would be hard to pinpoint exactly where on the spectrum P. E. lands, but I would place it somewhere between The Smiths and Jethro Tull– which is quite the span, to say the least. Take the first track, for example – “Lord of Reason.” The opening licks and verse sound very similar to Monster Magnet’s “Space Lord.” However, just before it takes off into the land of metal, they rein it back into the melodic rock fold. A band that walks the tightrope between groove and orchestral swells, The Prize has developed a song-writing style crafted from playing what they like, and liking what they play.
Skip ahead a few tracks, and you’ll find the gorgeous tune “Falling Far Behind.” This is another signature track that blends several elements from all over the map, but blends beautifully to create something that sounds like it was married years ago. Afro-Asian drumming, acoustic Irish folk guitar licks, edgy rock vocals, and bass lines that are both punchy and rhythmic, gluing the whole lot together.
Yet another example of the depth of this band is the album’s title track, “The Prize.” Shuffle-feel drums and dark 6/8 acoustic guitar and bass lay foundation for a brilliant vocal performance by Brett Carruthers. The real genius of the track is the bridge through the end, where they soar in harmony, repeating the phrase “Keep your head up…” and electric guitar soloing makes this sound like it could have been on a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young record. My musician ear perks up on this one, especially – it’s so well done, and so much of an anthem type song I could see it getting them a lot of notice.
Years ago, a band from Los Angeles called Loudermilk released The Red Record, and they were absolutely (and, in my opinion, unfairly) panned by critics as a “pop band who tried to be everything to everyone”. I don’t believe they released another cd, but I have always found that record to be enjoyable for its great range of style, awesome vocals, and fearless use of dynamic range. For the same reasons, I love The Prize as a whole collection, rather than a parade of hit singles. My hope is that it is not treated with the same half-witted dismissal. The fact is, A Primitive Evolution is a musician’s band, but you don’t have to know what an eighth note is to recognize unique musical combinations and stellar risk-taking in the song writing process.
If I have any criticism it is that A Primitive Evolution only teeters to the edge of all-out, reckless abandon rocking out. And in all fairness, that may be very intentional on their part to weed out the uncultured baboons such as myself. Please, don’t get me wrong – the balance is intriguing and engaging; but it feels like they could push it a little further.
If there’s one thing to take away from this cd, it’s that there are still good soldiers holding down the fort of soulful, meaningful, passionate rock music. A Primitive Evolution is anchored with passion, musicianship and a very focused sound. The fact that there are bands like this putting out great music in a time where digitalized over-production is the norm helps me sleep at night, knowing rock music isn’t going the way of the buffalo. Check them out and you’ll see what I mean.