Primal Scream - More Light (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
PRIMAL Scream’s latest, their first in five years, is epic in every sense. It could even be their most adventurous creation since Screamadelica.
A 70-minute-plus psychedelic trip that, in Bobby Gillespie’s own words, is “sophisticated, layered, cinematic and orchestral”, this is a bold return that cements their position as one of the UK’s classiest acts – even if there are a lot of moments that take getting used to and which may not cater for every taste.
Written by Gillespie and Andrew Innes and notably produced by David Holmes, More Light also boasts guest appearances from Robert Plant, Kevin Shields, The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart and Jason Faulkner.
The Holmes influence is apparent at several times throughout. It first surfaces on the heady road trip that is River of Pain, which unfolds in constantly surprising fashion to emerge as an early favourite.
The slinky beats that accompany the opening moments are pure Holmes, complete with cinematic leanings. If there was another Ocean’s film, this way well be on it. Gillespie, meanwhile, drops in a really laidback, hazy vocal in a track that oozes darkness.
And then, just when you think you have the measure of it, things get really trippy and weird (you could say f**ked up or even pretentious), before ‘correcting’ themselves for a surge of strings and then a return to the tricksy guitar licks and slinky beats that first got the track rolling (and with added sitar licks). It truly is adventurous and sometimes breathtaking with it.
Prior to that, album opener 2013 unfurls in heady fashion, a siren-style electronic intro eventually giving rise to driving beats, screeching guitars, more woozy electronics, some belated horns and some psychedelic vocals. It’s a no-nonsense start that, much like the rest of the album, takes several detours en route to its finale, continually evolving and keeping the listener on their toes – in a good way.
Culturecide maintains the funkiness set in motion at times by River of Pain, complete with Kowalski-style drum shuffles and vocals, while Hit Void is a sometimes vivid wall of noise (although this is one of the few tracks that sounds more like a filler).
Tenement Kid then slows down the pace and offers one of few ‘quiet’ moments – an almost jazzy vibe being adopted. Again, this benefits from Holmes’ mercurial presence, managing to sound both tripped out and cinematic. It’s another firm favourite complete with trippy tendencies.
Invisible City, meanwhile, has one of the album’s biggest disco vibes to offset some of its more psychedelic inclinations, complete with snappy back-beats, sharp stabs of brass and cute bass hooks. It’s got one of the catchiest choruses too.
And then there’s what is arguably the album’s greatest moment, Elimination Blues, a blues-rock workout that employs one of the best beats, some fantastic harmonica, a blues-gospel backing AND guest vocals from Plant. It’s a show-stopping moment and on a par with the absolute best in Primal Scream’s back catalogue.
Elsewhere, Turn Each Other Inside Out has more classic guitar riffs (of the classic Rolling Stones variety) weaving their way in and out a pulsating central riff and some head-rush electronic surges. It’s lively, hip and disco-friendly too.
Goodbye Johnny, meanwhile, employs another slinky back-beat and some dirty blasts of sax to provide another late night vibe that’s irresistible and Sideman maintains the dirtiness with a real monster of a guitar intro and some foot-stomping beats that are offset by Gillespie’s psychedelic delivery.
If Relativity is another of the album’s rare misfires, then normal high quality order is restored with Walking With The Beast, which slows down the tempo for a beautifully dusky acoustic offering that has a really distinct sound (I just couldn’t get enough of the guitars on this one).
While the album is rounded off in style with former single It’s Alright, It’s OK, which recalls the classic Primal Scream of Give Out But Don’t Give Up fame thanks to its gospel-tinged rock. Gillespie says of the album that it represents a journey from darkness into light and come those final “oh la la” harmonies, you’ll be giddily chanting along with it.
Put together, and allowing for one or two less successful moments, Primal Scream have put together their most essential album since that one-two of Screamadelica and Give Out But Don’t Give Up. It’s great to have them back on this form.
Download picks: River of Pain, 2013, Tenement Kid, Invisible City, Elimination Blues, Walking With The Beast, It’s Alright, It’s OK