Primal Scream: More Light
I’m one of the very few individuals on this planet, I suppose, that finds Primal Scream’s 1994 effort Give Out But Don’t Give Up a fairly enjoyable effort. Go listen again! You’ll see! Yes, the neon Confedate flag on the cover was a little much (not to mention overtly obvious), and three of the twelve songs are downright unlistenable, but I dare anyone with more than one musical taste bud to deny the funky power of the title cut, or the Euro-boogie of opening track Jailbird. It was no Screamadelica, and I was disappointed, but now that almost 20 years and five albums have passed I now see GOBDGU as a pretty good effort from The ‘Scream. Or, perhaps, it’s because the ‘Scream have released what I consider (and I’m a fan!) one of the most unintentionally hysterically funny and quite turgid ‘homage’ albums in the history of recorded music with the bilious Riot City Blues. Woeful is a word that comes to mind. Ick!
PS retreated after being crucified by not only the critics but also, and more importantly, by their fans, and came up with the dub-tastic Vanishing Point, the dark cousin to Screamadelica. In 2000 came XTRMNTR, an amazing album full of angst and electronics, and some of the best songs Primal Scream have ever written. Screamadelica remained my favorite, but this has rose fairly quickly and has been my #2 ever since. Evil Heat is underrated, paling (slightly) in comparison to the amazing XTRMNTR. As Pitchfork summed up: “so despite XTRMNTR’s moments of glory, I filed it away and crossed my fingers awaiting its follow-up. After all, Primal Scream may be known for a lot of things, but consistency of style is not one of them.” Right.
Then came the shit flood with the odorous Riot City Blues in 2006. The less said about this steaming, vomitous pile the better. It’s interesting to note that usually quite reasonable allmusic gave it a 7 out of 10, and stated that it “is a much more relaxed effort, and benefits significantly from that stance.” The album sucks. Take my word for it.
2 years later and Primal Scream release Beautiful Future, which is marginally better than Riot City Blues. It is competent, holding pattern Primal Scream; no more, no less.
I tell you all this to illustrate that even after all this time, and all these ups and downs (severe downs) you’d think I’d be done. The weird thing is, though, I find myself still getting excited over a new Primal Scream album. It’s not rational, I know, but I do. And if the early reviews are any indication, it’s going to be a good ‘un! Here’s a taste:
An epic album, More Light has the spirit and the quest of album that comes from a time when music was mind expanding and believed that it could blow your mind and change the world. Maybe, to some, that’s retro and out of sync with these times, a modern time when indie doesn’t mean independent and rock n roll has become a blipvert in a cookery show or an in-car CD for middle aged men presenting car programmers or a glib name to drop by the Eton Rifles that run this land.
More Light is just what we needed- an album that is a trip and an adventure, a place to get lost in and deals with the world without getting dragged down by it- full of firebrand rock n roll politics and fervoured calls to revolutionary soul power.
More Light is yet more living proof that great rock n roll still exists, an album that is a trip through the dense undergrowth of modern Britain, were a walk though a city is soundtracked with a million musics and a cultural overload. This is an album that stares the apocalypse in the eye and does not back down and is full of righteous politic and revolutionary yearning.
The new Primal Scream album is a state of the nation address incorporating free jazz/free rock, electronics, rock n roll, digital blues, urban scuzz electronics and orchestral layered hypnotic madness. It’s an epic, sprawling classic, a dark blues for the contemporary city. With the inner core of the band Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes on fire and producer David Holmes’ cinematic vision really adding to the album and giving them the confidence to really stretch out. Holmes is a great choice of producer- he came out of the punk to acid house meltdown and made some great cinematic albums of his own and go a great rep for mixing and producing- on More Light he adds texture and ideas to the Scream meltdown and it really enhances the sound giving the band their most 3D sound so far.
A rock n roll band’s job is not to provide solutions, at best it provides a commentary, capturing a moment, using romantic imagery and lyrical shrapnel to paint a picture. If it’s awake and still turned on it will offer a critique- Primal Scream have their eyes wide open and paint both a picture of a UK in paralysis, run into the ground by selfish government and sleep walking towards the end time but they also paint a romantic picture of a country bruising at the seams with a cross cultural mindfuck of possibility and excitement and paint it with the words of romantic bohemians. They also sing of revolution of the everyday and with the social clarity of prime time Joe Strummer in a wonderful rush of images and ideas.
The album is like a film- a warped documentary of contemporary Britain, the sequencing of the tracks and the length of the album adds to this and you can see the fast forward images of street life UK of 2013 played out in front of you as the tracks stretch out and Bobby Gillespie turns on the political and social rhetoric like an impassioned preacherman.
Musically the album is a tsunami of ideas, once you’re into this trip you can’t get out. This is a rock n roll band on fire and in love with ideas and tearing down the framework there is soundtrack and free jazz mashed into a contemporary setting giving the band a whole new feel, capturing those voodoo vibes when the jazzers started to get plain weird all those years ago and tripped out before the rock n rollers got there- entering that pure zone of ideas and feel and free from the curse of hit records and structure.
This is an album that has that looseness and the dark magus magic of those classic of old school jazz players like Pharaoh Saunders, Coltrane, Sun Ra and many others jazz geniuses when they really went out there and led the skinny white kids on a far stranger trip than they could ever imagine. What Primal Scream have done though is taken that adventure and bathed it with the post punk explosion of Metal Box Pil and their contemporaries and the wide eyed soundscapes of the post acid acid comedown and the repetition of krautrock- all eras when music got wonky and followed instinct instead bank accounts- and yet, oddly, they have also managed to turn it into a kind of pop music and this album is not an experimental mess – it’s very, very listenable.
If you’ve read this far, might as well go further and read the rest of the review here, at LOUDERTHANWAR.
Me, I’m letting it sink in a bit before I give my opinion. First impressions are positive, however…