So Primal Scream are back and what a relief it is. It’s been over 3 decades in since Bobby Gillespie rounded up his merry gang of space cadets, yet excitement for a new release is still high as ever. How many other bands have gone on this long and are still not only relevant but also interesting, innovative and still fucking cool? Did anyone really give a shit what the Rolling Stones were churning out by 1982? How many of those at the recent Stone Roses reunions were dying to hear the words, “here’s a new one”? Not many that wouldn’t have needed a piss at the same time I imagine.
The album opens with ‘2013’, which by now has no doubt been the soundtrack to many a hedonistic night on the tiles. The title itself tells its own story, its 2013 you cunts and we can still piss songs the rest of you upstarts can only dream of. A true banger of a track built around a filthy saxophone riff which manages to both dilate your pupils and unzip your trousers in 9 minutes of ecstasy driven filth.
After the elation of ‘2013’, ‘Rivers of Pain’ continues the psychedelic vibe with a quasi-bongo driven number. In one aspect it’s relaxing and trippy, in another, completely sinister and dark. It almost has a beach camp-fire feel to it, albeit a beach filled with snakes instead of juggling hippies. A Day in the Life-esque breakdown only adds to the feeling of discord.
14 minutes gone and only 2 songs in, you feel like you’ve already been to the club and the after party. You wonder where it can go from here….
‘Cultercide’ sees Bobby G getting political, spitting out vitriol regarding the injustice laid on those unable to feed their children and the culture of looking out for yourself, “stabbing a brother in the back”. If there is any doubt whose direction this anger is aimed at, Maggie Thatcher herself is name checked along with her “no such thing as society” rhetoric. Leave it to Primal Scream to once again sum of the feelings of a nation.
‘Hit Void’ shows the influence Kevin Shields may have had on the band in recent years with some scuzzed up shoe gazing. The sax makes another appearance escalating the gazing towards the stars, rather than directed at shoes. ‘Tenement Kid’ then picks up where ‘Cultercide’ left off, this time telling the story from the point of view of the young people who have suffered and are suffering in the current times. The repeated refrain “Something is broken, things are unspoken, things cut me open, let me avenge” is haunting and spine tingling.
After the head wrenching gut fuck of the last few songs ‘Invisible City’ comes as something of a relief. Upbeat and relaxed this is the kind of track you can easily see the masses dancing to as the sun goes down at Glastonbury in a couple of months.
‘Goodbye Johnny’ is something else altogether. Managing to mash up the finer bits of the more leftfield indie of the Britpop era, the opening owes something of a debt to ‘Female of the Species’ by Space but just loads fucking better. As with everything else on this album though, the smut filters through and whilst a floaty middle 8 catches you off guard before you know it your back down Soho cadging ciggies off old queens. You can pretty much guarantee this will be on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack at some point in the future.
Tracks ‘Sideman’ and ‘Elimination Man’ fit the atmosphere of the album without adding a great deal but any thoughts of a lull in the second side of the album are immediately dispelled.
‘Turn Each Other Out’s’ intro is like listening to a Nugget era garage band kicking around with jams in a way so wonderful you are almost disappointed when Bobby G begins to sing in his hushed tones. Primal Scream being Primal Scream take the almost primitive beginnings and morph into their own and the end result is akin to watching a 60s hippy take ecstasy for the first time.
The final 3 tracks show what an embarrassment of riches The Scream possess in their arsenal. Each one could have a valid shout as perfect closing song on the album. Both ‘Walking with the Beast’ and ‘It’s Alright, Its Ok’ simmer with beauty and neither would be out of place on Screamadelica.
But it is penultimate track, ‘Relativity’ which stands out amongst the trio. Continuing on his sinister trail Gillespie taunts the protagonist of the song, mocking the fact he is sat on the settee all day smoking cigarettes and refusing to change his ways. It builds to a crescendo as the words “you’re a fucking mess” and “you’re best to be avoided” are screamed at you through the speakers. Never has being verbally abused felt so good.
It could be speculated that Gillespie is playing devil’s advocate here, after abusing those in power for not helping, and sympathising with those who need help the most, perhaps the anger here is aimed at those not willing to help themselves. Whatever the message its multi-faceted opus that you wish would never end, even at 7 minutes long.
Primal Scream. No other band could make an album so rich and rewarding that hops effortlessly between genres all the while sounding only like they can and how no other band would dare. A remarkable effort from a truly astonishing band.
Martin Luther King “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”