Primal Scream – More Light
Buy: More Light
Even though they’ve loomed large over British guitar music ever since I can remember being aware of ‘British guitar music’, I’ve never really ‘got’ Primal Scream. I never understood the big fuss about Screamadelica, and the rest of their 90’s output all felt a bit too self-absorbed and bloated. It wasn’t until the superlative XTRMNTR in 2000 that Primal Scream really struck me as vital and interesting.
It’s perhaps no surprise that XTRMNTR was also the Scream’s most politically charged album, and one that prominently featured My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. After that, though, they went backwards – returning mostly to their default quasi-Stones rock that may sound good on the odd single, but never convincing for a whole album.
I had high hopes for More Light, though, as Bobby Gillespie’s press interviews have all been concerned about the shit state the country’s in and how current bland rock bands are a ‘joke’ for not tackling it. So we have a politically charged Bobby Gillespie talking up a new Primal Scream album that features Kevin Shields prominently – is this the era-defining, genre-busting, regime-challenging protest album we have been waiting for?
Lead single and album opener ‘2013’ suggests it could be. Bobby rages about ”Twenty first century slaves” and ”Thatcher’s children” before trying to incite a ”teenage revolution”. As nine-minute opening tracks go, it’s pretty great – and has producer David Holmes’ skillful fingerprints all over it.
After the aggrandising ‘big picture’ of ‘2013’, More Light plummets into the nitty gritty of life in a world going backwards with the domestic violence narrative of ‘River Of Pain’, where Gillespie’s breathless vocals paint a grim scene over dark and disturbing psychedelic grooves. It also has a quite breathtaking orchestral breakdown towards the end which helps to add an element of theatre to the narrative.
‘Culturecide’ and ‘Hit The Void’ bring some of the punch and energy of XTRMNTR to More Light, but are let down mostly by Gillespie over-reaching for a lyrical gravitas that’s slightly beyond him. ‘Tenement Kid’ is as socially conscious and soporific as the title would suggest, while ‘Invisible City’ is one of those forgettable ‘proto-dance-rock songs that MEAN something’ that Primal Scream seem especially fond of making.
So, six songs in and More Light is seeming very much like a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ album. Luckily there’s another NINE songs ready and waiting to boost the hit ratio up a bit. Unfortunately one of those nine songs is the shameless ‘Movin’ On Up’ clone ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK’, so that rules that out.
Amongst the rest, though, there is plenty to keep the attention from waning. ‘Goodbye Johnny’ is a groovy, mysterious and twisted neo-soul song that could easily soundtrack a Tarantino scene. ‘Sideman’ is also heavy in soul conventions, but adds bruising rock overtones to the mix. ‘Turn Each Other Inside Out’ has some of the best guitar lines this side of Johnny Marr’s new album and ‘Walking With The Beast’ is a blissful sojourn into trippy Beatles territory.
There’s some poor efforts lurking around every impressively layered and structured corner though, unfortunately. ‘Elimination Blues’ is an awkward and unwelcome psych-blues mess and ‘Relativity’ comes on like a particularly stoned Kevin Parker trying to remember what a Tame Impala song actually sounds like.
If there’s one big problem with More Light it’s that it’s just too long. With David Holmes at the desk, Kevin Shields eager to add more sonic bricks to the Wall of Sound and Bobby Gillespie throwing every recession/revolution metaphor he’s got at all 15 songs, it becomes an exhausting listen. Ultimately though it’s worth the effort, as More Light has some very classy and rewarding moments.