[Review] Icehouse: Primitive Man (1982)

The band’s second album invited favorable comparisons to Roxy Music, for everyone who wanted to Avalon and on.

Kronomyth 2.0: Australia’s pithy kiss.

It was hailed as the second coming of Avalon. With Japan (the band) winding down, there were few heroes to carry the fallen standard of Roxy Music, and Primitive Man looked to be the future. Forget for the moment that Icehouse the band didn’t even exist anymore. Iva Davies conceived and performed Primitive Man as a solo album; as DIY albums go, it’s to die for. The arrangements are lush and sophisticated, the album painstakingly produced.

Looking (slightly) back, the single “Love In Motion” b/w “Goodnight, Mr. Matthews” was a sign of great things to come. Videos—horribly dated 80s videos, really—were created to accompany “Great Southern Land,” “Hey Little Girl” and “Street Café,” and interest in Icehouse heated up among the MTV generation. Davies clearly had his David Bowie and Bryan Ferry affectations down pat, moreso than most of the New Romantics, yet he was no mere imitator, but the genuine article. Davies doesn’t make a single misstep on Primitive Man; even the Gary Glitteresque “Glam” feels substantial and important.

Despite its obvious debt to Roxy Music, Primitive Man differs in its presentation. Science fiction is still a key part of Icehouse’s landscape, allusions to broad social issues crop up through epic imagery on “Great Southern Land” and “Trojan Blue,” and even the romantic overtures remain chilled and reserved. In a sense, Primitive Man is the missing link between the robot squad (Gary Numan, Ultravox) and the new romantics. The album was not only one of the best of the year, but the best of Icehouse’s career. Sidewalk fell flat on its face, and it was four years before Davies released a suitable followup to Primitive Man with Measure For Measure. Time, however, has not diminished the achievement of Primitive Man or dulled the wonder of discovering it for the first time.

Original LP Version

A1. Uniform (4:09)
A2. Street Café (4:22)
A3. Hey, Little Girl (4:10)
A4. Glam (3:18)
A5. Great Southern Land (5:14)
B1. Trojan Blue (4:59)
B2. Love In Motion (3:34)
B3. Mysterious Thing (4:21)
B4. One By One (3:57)
B5. Goodnight, Mr. Matthews (3:57)

All titles by Iva Davies.

Original Australian LP Version
A1. Great Southern Land (5:14)
A2. Uniform (4:09)
A3. Street Café (4:22)
A4. Hey’ Little Girl (4:10)
A5. Glam (3:18)
B1. Trojan Blue (4:59)
B2. One By One (3:57)
B3. Break These Chains (3:40)
B4. Mysterious Thing (4:21)
B5. Goodnight, Mr. Matthews (3:57)

Australian CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Uniform (12” German version)
12. Street Café (single mix)
13. Love In Motion
14. Can’t Help Myself (live)

The Players

Iva Davies (vocals, guitar, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, bass guitar, Linn drum machine, Fairlight CMI) with Keith Forsey (percussion). Produced by Iva Davies and Keith Forsey; engineered by Dave Jerden, Brian Reeves, David Price, Rick Butz.

The Pictures

Cover concept by Iva Davies and Janet Levinson. Front cover illustration by Bill Tom. Inner sleeve and back cover photography by Craig Dietz.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on September 6, 1982 in Australia (Regular, RRLP/M5RR 1204), the US and Canada (Chrysalis, CHR 1390), the UK (Chrysalis, CHR/ZCHR 1390) and Germany (Chrysalis, 204 980 320); reached #129 on the US charts. Released as Love In Motion with different cover in the UK.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and compact disc in the US (Chrysalis, PV/VK 41390).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1987 in Germany (Chrysalis, 254 980-222).
  3. Re-packaged with Flowers on 2-for-1 2CD in 1996 in Australia (Diva, 7320292).
  4. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2002 in Australia (WEA/Windsong, 748982) with 4 bonus tracks.

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