Just when you least expect it...just what you least expect
Primal Scream sashay into the fourth decade of their career still gloriously unpredictable which, in the most prominent of ironies, is the one thing they’re predictable for. They’ve yet to produce anything which follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, or at least something with less a paradoxical canyon of difference between them. But that’s how they do things, that’s their modus operandi and any attempts to second guess them is as pathetic as it is arrogant. It’s that schizophrenic nature that makes them so compelling – coupled with the fact they have enough backbone to go with their instincts and ideas regardless of whatever commercially damaging consequence might be hurled at them as a result of it. For sure, such transient policies and the fidgeting desire to formulate hybrids rather than pure-breeds hasn’t always spun things in their favour. They are the band who either get it completely bang on and it’s brilliant or confusingly way below radar in the direction of somewhere they imagine it needs to be. If ever they should wish to create an external cyber glutton of doom with blazing sirens, a crunching change of direction every 8 seconds amid ear rattling Russian narrative, looped to constant action replay from start to finish…then create it they undoubtedly would. Depending on the general mindset at the time their musical influences might be lightly mosaicked across a catchy hook laden mainframe of introspective lullabies… or just chucked in, an endless bombardment of acid frazzled experimentation, fragmented and jig-sawed in a heaped carnage of everyfuckingsoundundertheplanet discord. But, as I said, that’s Primal Scream, that is industrious innovation or purposeful liberation or both, plus a million divided by nothing equals everything.That makes no sense of course but it would if Bobby Gillespie were to explain it.
In the earlier years they struggled to get a solid foothold on the first step, the press slated everything they tried to do and then dismissed them as ‘unimaginative’ and ‘directionless’ Of course, as we now know, in Sept 1991 – heavily influenced by the drug fuelled rave scene they had developed a healthy appetite for, they opened up their doors and the galloping house/dance/indie rock & roll majesty of SCREAMADELICA ushered the entire world in. This ever-reaching interplanetary daydream oscillated atop the peaks of an uncharted frontier dripping with planet spinning bursts of jazz utopia and spirit hugging piano that slalomed its way among snatches of sampled narrative harnessed to groove-edged drum loops and interwoven with lazy dub and atmospheric gospel music all gathered up and lashed to a rock and roll substructure and shaped into perfect sense by DJ’s Andy Weatherall and Terry Farley……
‘just what is it that you want to do?’
‘we wanna be free..we wanna be free to do what we wanna do’
It’s 22 years on now and the loved up romance between rockers and clubbers, the serotonin exhilarator, was a honeymoon period that ended badly when too many scheme bandits, chemical pirates and yattering MC’s edged their way in and built false empires upon the shoulders of a cunted circus….if ever euphoric tactility was destined to be overindulged, here it was. Primal Scream though had moved on long before the ‘three for a tenner’ salesmen came to milk the stragglers. Long before the biting comedown. Long before all of it.Their 10th studio album ‘MORE LIGHT’ is a sprawling 70 plus minutes of material written by Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes, comes 5 years after ‘BEAUTIFUL FUTURE’… and with notable changes. Mani has gone back to The Stone Roses and his touring stand-in Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine) is also missing which nicely conjures up the proper chance to introduce new, permanent bassist Simone Butler who, prior to this, worked in a guitar shop. Bobby Gillespie is now in his 50’s, still as slender as a pencil line, still with just the mere hint of any hipbone and still (as he was born to be) a bit of a cool bastard. Opener ‘2013’ is an explosive 9 minute guitar encrusted, jazz rock, vintage glamour drenched presentation of impassioned outrage – ‘what happened to the voices of dissent’ he sings, in what feels more allegation than question, as he unleashes this cynical attack upon contemporary culture. It’s a strong opener with enough stamina to safely complete its lengthy duration without showing any signs of a struggle. A shift in direction for the outstanding ‘RIVER OF PAIN’ with its swirling waves of Eastern tinged psychedelia and Bobby Gillespie’s whispering vocal is outstanding enough until things suddenly veer into an orchestral mash up around the midway point before crashing to an end upon atmospheric echoes of percussion and vocals. A stunning example of the things Primal Scream are capable of. They stick with the psychedelic vibe but this time a much more indirect prop, that hand feeds the ambience of vocal distorted despair anthem ‘CULTURECIDE’ rattling with utter despondency and sheer vitriolic heartache – surely this will be what post-nuclear nothingness could sound like? Dragging its jaded, miserable existence behind it like rope, the lyrics are a half rap/half speak announcement thumbing through subject matter from Thatcher to the Neutron Bomb as guest contributor Mark Stewart from The Pop Group wails the single line ‘culturecide’ from his huddled position somewhere deep inside the torment. Energetic and sharp blues/rock tune ‘HIT VOID’ opens out the landscape to ‘TENEMENT KID’ an effortless little display of genius built upon poetic reflection – and if it’s already written somewhere that on this song Bobby Gillespie sounds uncannily like John Lennon I wouldn’t be surprised for two reasons…
1: It’s too ‘in your face’ obvious not to have already been noted by the entire world
2: I will never be sharp enough or tuned in enough to be the first person to mention something that hasn’t already been said by someone else. Always the bridesmaid but never the…plagiarist ( please remember that)
On ‘GOODBYE JOHNNY’ there’s a strong hint of lounge-room/faux country etiquette as Bobby Gillespie adopts a crooning style that pierces the cloying mists of a lavish saxophone drenched orchestration in yet another example of versatility personified. Guest vocalist Robert Plant brings ‘ELIMINATION BLUES’ to life, a gospel/blues electro trashed tune with its ‘ah hah’ stoner aura, gutsy lead guitar squall and bone idle harmonies, the song bristles with so many moments of loaded, onboard brilliance. Billowing, trippy layered ‘RELATIVITY’ staggers from crazed jaunt to insane waltz with seemingly good natured spurts of summery feel good music until they turn it on its head and shake out the venom….’you’re fucking next’ he barks from out of the pleasantries as the sound pulses and bangs right through you….you’re too scared to change he snarls, vindictiveness at its most casually acerbic, ghosting every inch of the song. The album ends with the single ‘IT’S ALRIGHT, IT’S OK’ an uplifting rock and roll good time anthem dipped in The Rolling Stones early garage rock and blues sound and further bolstered by gospel singers, catchy oooh lah lah harmonies, cheeky handclaps and a solid guitar pathway. The song is a straightforward enough canter for Primal Scream but, in this environment, the greatest finisher!
Probably their strongest album in years, definitely their most defined, undoubtedly the most consistent and more adventurous For the people out there who had secretly lost confidence in Primal Scream ever pulling another great album from within the corridors of their magic hat minus the rabbits and the doves, the mumbled rhetoric and the endless bouquets of paper flowers to distract us from the trickery, then rest easy….just when you least expect it, just what you least expect. For every generation that never found a culture, every culture without a fashion, every fashion that never found its drug and for every drug scene devoid of a decent soundtrack….this one’s for you, so take it. Take it now!
Words by Alan Baillie for SUBBA CULTCHA