Primal Scream, masterminded by the indomitable Bobby Gillespie, have performed more than one stylistic volte-face in order to defy lazy journalistic pigeon-holing during their long and storied career. From their inception as a jangly indie-pop band from the fabled NME C86 mix-tape era, through the incorporation of Acid House sensibilities and elements of dance culture evident on 1991’s stone-cold classic Screamadelica, to the harder-edged, industrial disco-punk of XTRMNTR, this is a band unafraid to alter the status quo in search of inspiration. Such bravery, while admirable, often has mixed results of course, and Primal Scream have often faced (entirely justifiable) criticism for a perceived lack of focus and consistency.
One ingredient of the heady Primal Scream cocktail that has been ever present is a healthy slug of psychedelia, and this certainly remains the case on the band’s latest offering, More Light. The record sets out at a searing pace with sneering, horn-led, XTRMNTR-recalling opener “2013,” while a more subtle psych flavour is blended with notes of country-tinged guitar picking and an extended, dissonant, orchestral breakdown on “River Of Pain.” The loose but insistent vibe and daring mixture of musical genres prevalent in the very best of the Scream’s output is in full effect in these opening tracks, but sadly the momentum dissipates all too soon. “Invisible City,” being a little reminiscent of a New Order cast-off and featuring a bassline sounding every bit like something Peter Hook would’ve recorded in the late 80s, and “Goodbye Johnny,” which sounds alarmingly like something mid-90s Britpop also-rans Space would have produced, are the throwaway worst of what is a fairly uninspiring run of apparent mid-album filler material.
Fortunately, normal service is resumed with the sharp one-two of “Elimination Blues” and “Turn Each Other Inside Out.” The former, complete with wah-wah guitar and soulful backing vocals, is feels like a tip of the proverbial hat to the funk records cited by Gillespie and producer David Holmes as being heavily influential on More Light‘s overall feel. The latter is a more straight-ahead post-punk influenced rocker, yet still manages to find time for a backwards-looped guitar break, despite its relative brevity. Alas, this wouldn’t be a Primal Scream record without at least one affectionate Stones homage (or “lazy and derivative near cover version”, depending on your perspective), and closing tack “It’s Alright, It’s OK” duly obliges on that front.
As has been the case throughout his lengthy career, Gillespie’s lyrics are again dogged by the fact that they do not in any way, shape, or form, stand up to close scrutiny, veering wildly between cringeworthy sloganeering (“live like a refugee in your own country”) and the plain embarrassing (“it’s the final solution to teenage revolution/the total subjugation of the rock ‘n’ roll nation”). This, however, is highly unlikely to deter long-time fans from enjoying what is, despite the usual inconsistency and lack of lyrical depth, one of Primal Scream’s most enjoyable albums since the turn of the millennium.[subscribe2]