Primitive Screwhead

Art Gray Noizz Quintet Live! Friday March 13th 2020 cassette

Another killer live cassette by the masterminds at Primitive Screwhead. This was actually my first exposure to the ART GRAY NOIZZ QUINTET, who play mid-tempo, sleazy noise rock. This was recorded mere days before all the COVID lockdown protocols began, so it stands to reason that this was likely the last live musical experience that the crowd that fateful evening would experience for quite some time. Listening to it on cassette, I would imagine that those who were lucky enough to be in attendance were held over for quite some time thanks to these nasty grooves delivered by the QUINTET.

Cheap Freaks Live at the Olympia cassette

Alright, let’s get down to business here. The band: for those of you unfamiliar with CHEAP FREAKS, they are a killer garage rock band from Dublin, Ireland that seamlessly incorporates aspects of punk, surf, and psychedelic rock into their sound. They have released a bunch of EPs and an outstanding LP on Big Neck Records that you can still find out in the wild pretty easily. The label: Primitive Screwhead is the all-live cassette subsidiary of the aforementioned powerhouse Big Neck Records, and has been cranking out tape after tape of Big Neck and Big Neck-adjacent projects. This volume was recorded on July 4th, 2013 at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. CHEAP FREAKS sound unbelievably tight and the sound quality is better than most bands’ studio releases. Another one right on the money by Primitive Screwhead.

Chrome Spiders Kitten’s Whisper cassette

Best known for his stints in the DIRTBOMBS and BANTAM ROOSTER, veteran Detroit garage guy Tom Jackson Potter put together his own group, the CHROME SPIDERS, in the ’00s. Playing smoky, blues-battered rock with a tasteful touch of ’60s swagger, the group released a 7” in 2009 and then, just before calling it quits, recorded this album which is just now finally seeing the light of day. With eight original songs and a faithful rendition of “Jumping Jack Flash,” it’s a smooth and understated garage affair with just the right amount of kick, showcasing the group’s knack for creating hypnotic pools of immersive sound. They’re at their best when they allow themselves room to breathe on expansive tracks like “Outta Time” and “Waydown.” There’s a unique synergy at work across this album, where the band’s effortless dimly-lit bar-rock is circled by surges of glowing electricity, and the resulting cool din is just begging to be accessorized with a stiff drink and a dark pair of sunglasses.

Cococoma The Money Will Roll Right In cassette

New release on powerhouse label Primitive Screwhead. For those of you not yet familiar, this is the brand new, all-live tape label run by garage rock dynamo Big Neck Records. Chicago, IL-based COCOCOMA has always been a cool, intriguing band to me, who seemed to walk the tightrope between catchy garage rock and spastic, nasty punk weirdness. On this live cassette recording the band really ramps up the psychedelic/pop aspects of their sound. So many killer, catchy songs on this tape and the sound quality is great. One doesn’t always know what kind of can of worms they’re opening with live releases, but thus far Primitive Screwhead has been doing a fantastic job with releasing cassettes that truly capture what it’s like seeing a band live.

Exploding Eyes Live at Bello Bar cassette

Primitive Screwhead, live cassette subsidiary label of Big Neck Records, simultaneously dropped three releases of projects all featuring Robert O’Braidaigh, who was also in the THINGS and CHEAP FREAKS. Chronologically, this is the third of those releases, recorded on February 27th, 2016. Removing most if not all of the grit from his earlier projects, EXPLODING EYES feels like a straightforward, radio-friendly rock’n’roll act. The songwriting is great, musicianship is top-notch, and though the band is less nasty than the aforementioned, it still has some wild, squealing guitar leads and thundering drums. It’s interesting to listen to the progression of three different bands Mr. O’Braidaigh has done and see the genres he navigates fluidly. You can get all three of these as a bundle of cassettes from the label, which I recommend doing if you like any of the three bands.

Proud Parents Live at Union Pool cassette

Eleven tracks of jangly sing-along jams from Wisconsin’s PROUD PARENTS, recorded live in Brooklyn (at a pool party, apparently). At times it (almost) sounds like Gordon Gano dropped in on some indie band’s basement rehearsal just to make it weird, but really, this is just smooth-ass garage-lite. Be careful though, it sticks.

Sonny Vincent and the Bad Reactions Live at WCSB Cleveland cassette

Sonny Vincent, best known for his work in seminal NYC ’70s punk band TESTORS, and his backing band from 2012 the BAD REACTIONS performing live on a Cleveland based radio station. Starting things off with my favorite TESTORS song, this tape is relentless with similar style sleazy, driving rock riffs the whole way through! Aside from a three-song 7″, this is the only documentation of this project and it is absolutely worth a listen. Honestly, pretty inspiring stuff hearing aging rockers not losing their grit. If you dig TESTORS (and if you don’t maybe you should give them another shot), then you are definitely going to dig this.

Steve Adamyk Band Live cassette

Primitive Screwhead. That name mean anything to you yet? It is the cassette subsidiary label of the mighty Big Neck Records which releases exclusively live cassettes for bands. And that’s what we have here for STEVE ADAMYK BAND, a collection of tracks from a slew of different live shows. The recordings range from crystal clear sound to very acceptable quality, being that it is a mix of different live recordings. STEVE and his band play a blend of pop punk, power pop, and garage rock, all mushed into its own amalgamation. The band has a slew of releases, many of them on Dirtnap, to give you an idea of what they’re all about. It’s super poppy and catchy, and if that’s your thing, jump on this cassette, as they don’t seem to last very long.

Teen Cobra Live at Funtastic Dracula Carnival 2021 cassette

Bad sound quality can hurt a recording, but here it is truly a member of the band. The guitars are playing straight out of the LEUSEMIA and RAMONES playbooks, and the drums are a spartan but joyful bass-and-snare stomp. Maybe there’s a tambourine? Or is that feedback? No new tricks here, but that spareness is engaging. It could also be that the songs are satisfyingly catchy and snotty. This is not as easy to pull off as one might believe. “Any fool can make something complicated, but it takes genius to keep it simple.”

The Hamiltones Live at the Jungle Gym cassette

The HAMILTONES follow up their incredible Dracula Invitational, 1791 LP from last year with a live cassette on Primitive Screwhead, the Big Neck Records live cassette subsidiary label. End of February 2014 in Buffalo, NY: lo-fi nasty instrumental surf rock plays as an absolutely bonkers party rages around. Punkers in Buffalo have had this recurring event for years now, with a beach party taking place in the midst of winter to attempt to stave off the seasonal blues. Heat is cranked, swimwear is donned by all those in attendance, and on this special year, musical guests the HAMILTONES performed live in a jam-packed living room. I happened to be at this party, and I don’t exactly remember things being as debaucherous as fellow attendee Micky Harmon depicted in his artist’s rendering of the evening on a wild-looking four-panel foldout cover for this cassette. Though, the more I think about it and listen to these tunes, the more accurate I think the artwork actually is.

The Hot Pockets Live in Köln cassette

Primitive Screwhead continues to unearth lo-fi recordings debatably worthy of cassette releases on their live-recordings-only label. This time we find a recording from over twenty years ago, originally recorded in 2001 by Dutch punk/sleazy rock’n’roll outfit the HOT POCKETS. Stumbling through a 30-minute set of originals as well as covers by the NERVES, the REAL KIDS, and even GUNS N’ ROSES, the band keeps the audience on their toes with their juvenile between-song banter and out-of-tune harmonizing vocal attempts. Seems like this was probably a bit of a beautiful disaster to behold in the moment.

The Hussy Live at High Noon Saloon 1/7/17 cassette

I figure the point of releasing a live tape would be to let everyone know what a fun live band you are. In that aspect, the HUSSY succeeded. I’ll be sure to check them out next time they are in town. The HUSSY is having a good time, introducing every song as their last song, demanding the people in the audience get closer to the stage, and shouting out thanks to their friends. The music is primitive and garage-y. I also enjoy that they leave in the silences in addition to the between song banter. It’s just like being there. The downside of a live recording is that it is lo-fi, rough-sounding, and not always pleasant to listen to. You really need to be a fan and in a certain mood to pop on a live recording. Recorded in Austin, TX.

The Things Live at Temple Bar Music Centre cassette

I don’t know much about the THINGS, other than the fact that they are a garage rock band from Dublin, and that the bassist went on to form long-time garage-psych powerhouse CHEAP FREAKS, who also have a new live cassette out on the same label (Primitive Screwhead) as this one. Jump back in time and across the pond with me, won’t you? Here we are in Dublin on May 27th, 2004 at the Temple Bar Music Centre, with the THINGS taking the stage. From the first note played on this lo-fi, live-recorded cassette, I am instantly a fan. Driving, nasty, synth-heavy, dingy garage punk which somehow dips its toes into the rockabilly world without being off-putting in the slightest. There are a few songs on here that I would swear I’ve known all my life, they’re that catchy. I love what Primitive Screwhead has been doing as a label, cranking out cassettes of live material of varying sound quality. Keep up the good work.  Despite the tape being shrink-wrapped, mine came complete with a long pubic hair sealed inside. Is that standard with this release or am I a special case? Thank you?

Twin Guns Black Moon in Woodstock Live cassette

Another live cassette on Primitive Screwhead, the Big Neck Records live cassette subsidiary label. TWIN GUNS play some sort of amalgamation of rockabilly, garage-y rock’n’roll, and psychedelia, with a bit of surf influences peppered in there, too. This live tape is somewhat amusing due to the few people that keep talking obnoxiously close to wherever the mic was set up, so you get occasional snippets of conversation coming through louder than the band. A fun new tape label that has me intrigued as to what will be cranked out on it next.

Werewolf Jones Stroh Down: Live at Outer Limits Lounge 2019 cassette

Strap yourself in for a live psych/grunge/garage freakout—”I Got It All” starts things off and shit never slows down. Energy level is through the roof, guitar and bass are EQ-ed to a general buzzsaw blur, and even (especially) when they slow down to a snarl, the shit is just mean and dirty. No frills here, just nasty, greasy damaged after-punk.

Wood Chickens Live at Spicoli’s cassette

WOOD CHICKENS are a high-energy, punky rockabilly band from Wisconsin. This live cassette captures them in a full-swing rocking state. They sound like they are having a really good time. There are some fun song titles like “Return of Skunk Ape,” “We Skate in Boots,” and “Emilio Estevez,” too.