They are often compared to the The Screamers from Los Angeles, Suicide and bands from the No Wave music scene from New York. They met as teenagers in Springvale, a rough working-class outer suburb of Melbourne, moving in 1977 to St Kilda, then the centre of the punk rock scene. Despite socialising with the likes of Nick Cave from The Boys Next Door they remained outsiders to this scene (most of which was comprised of people from middle-class backgrounds with private-school educations), and in 1978 moved to Fitzroy. Here they settled on the 4 piece lineup that recorded and found like-minded friends,such as Ollie Olsen and John Murphy of Whirlywirld, and were instrumental in organising a series of gigs named "Little Band nights", where hastily-formed bands would play for 15 minutes each; this led to a compilation EP being recorded. The Primitive Calculators played their last gig in March 1980, though their self-titled live album came out in the early 1980s.
The band reformed briefly in 1986 to perform a live version of their song "Pumping Ugly Muscle" in the film Dogs In Space. In 2001, a 1979 live recording of "Pumping Ugly Muscle" was included in "Can't Stop It", a compilation of Australian post-punk bands from '78 to '82, released by Chapter Music. The title of the CD was taken from the Calculator's only studio recording, in December 1979, which was a 7" single with the tracks "I Can't Stop It" and "Do That Dance". This led to a renewed interest in the band and later the 2003 release of the "Glitter Kids" EP, of three live recordings from 1979 by Meeuw Muzik in the Netherlands. The Primitive Calculators' album was reissued on CD by Chapter Music in 2004, with extra tracks from related projects (The Moths, other live recordings from 1979 and an unnamed Primitive Calculators/Whirlywirld hybrid recorded in London, 1981]). In March 2007, Chapter Music released "Primitive Calculators and Friends, 1979 to 1982", a CD which contained the only studio recordings of the band (the 7" single from 1979), the "Little Band" single, also from 1979, and live tracks from Little Band nights. It also contained other recordings from bands the members formed after 1980 such as a single called Zye Ye Ye (recorded in London, 1981 with Ollie Olsen and John Murphy), and bands formed after the return of some of the band members to Australia, from Europe, in 1982. The band reformed in 2009 and have been playing shows intermittently since. They are currently working on their debut studio album for release in 2012.
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