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PRIMITONS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Primitons (Throbbing Lobster) 1985
Happy All the Time (What Goes On) 1987

The two prime movers in Birmingham's Primitons are drummer/accordionist Leif Bondarenko and singer/guitarist/organist Mots Roden, a Swede who somehow wound up living in Alabama. Following a long stint in Jim Bob and the Leisure Suits (a promising but gimmicky local adaptation of new wave), the pair formed the all-pop Primitons with singer/guitarist Brad Dorset and non-performing lyricist Stephanie Truelove Wright.

Joined by a guest vocalist, the trio recorded a sturdy and attractive seven-song debut, produced with Mitch Easter. Primitons is a pop record, but with the same sort of gravity and lyrical depth as the Windbreakers. "All My Friends" offers a rich R.E.M.-influenced rush; "She Sleeps" puts a gothic tale of death and grieving to simple music strengthened by high, lonesome singing; "You'll Never Know" is an ominous whisper about nuclear destruction.

Bassist Don Tinsley replaced Dorset; the trio (plus Wright) issued an ambitious and spectacular Anglo-pop 12-inch, "Don't Go Away," which covers the Left Banke's "Something on My Mind" as one of its two B-sides. Happy All the Time, which boasts "Don't Go Away" and other similarly well-executed numbers, is a winning collection and shows what a fine band the Primitons are. Layers of guitars and vocals are the main ingredients; subtlety and diversity are a bonus; talented songwriting and offbeat lyrics provide the solid foundation. Tim Lee guests.

[Ira Robbins]