First International / Ignition
Albums don’t come much more era-defining than Primal Scream’s 1991 rock and rave culture cross-over Screamadelica, but their last LP, 2009’s Beautiful Future, hardly rebutted the view that their glory days were over.
When the bassist Gary “Mani” Mounfeld left to rejoin The Stone Roses in 2011, moreover, he did so after a 20th anniversary tour of Screamadelica that, for all its rave reviews, had a slightly worrying undercurrent: were Primal Scream, lifelong adherents to reinvention and iconoclasm, now readying themselves for indie’s version of the greatest hits circuit?
More Light – 70 minutes-plus of edgy psychedelia and irate social and cultural comment – allays any such fears.
Though the Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie has sometimes been guilty of pat political pronouncements that have sparked the odd snigger at the back, he’s a more mature sounding dissident here, his new-found clean and serene lifestyle perhaps lifting some of the fug and sharpening some of the invective.
Together with his co-writer Andrew Innes (guitar) and the producer David Holmes, Gillespie is central to an inspired, often avant-garde sounding record that rails against all that is predictable and insipid. It’s there in the sonics (freak-out saxophone; all manner of kooky arrangements), and it’s there in the lyrics of the nine-minute, state of the nation diatribe 2013 and the similarly miffed Culturecide.
The latter song’s “satellite-dish where the window should be” is a neat shorthand for the inward and passive consumption which Gillespie fears has become the opium of the masses while, musically speaking, its acid-jazz flute and heavy reverb are pure Blaxploitation soundtrack.
More Light keeps ringing the changes, though, hence Hit Void is energising garage rock, the world-music groove of River of Pain could conceivably be the work of the -Tuareg band Tinariwen, and Elimination Blues is a swampy, molasses-thick affair on which Robert Plant duets.
Bobby Gillespie turned 50 last year and More Light is Primal Scream’s 10th studio album. Whether this confluence of milestones inspired him to up his game is unclear, but after some dodgy -releases, both he and the Scream are again sounding more like themselves than a tired sum of their influences.
More Light would have been done and dusted by the time the Scream learnt they would be playing directly before The Rolling Stones at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, but that eventuality seems a fitting reward for a job well done here. I wonder if they’ll air Loaded, the Screamadelica track that cribs from Sympathy for the Devil?
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