Primal Scream, More Light

Andrew Harrison

By Andrew Harrison

on 06.18.13 in Reviews

It’s a tough old business, maintaining your credentials at the vanguard of out-there, transgressive, us-against-The-Man rock ‘n’ roll when you’re into your fourth decade as a functioning band. Over the years, Primal Scream have often made their task harder by following the ambitious and the visionary with conservative regressions into rock ‘n’ roll retro. It started when they followed up 1991′s hallucinogenic rave soundtrack Screamadelica with the sluggish Stones impersonations on Give Out But Don’t Give Up in 1994. The spectre of another Great Leap Backwards is never far away.

Their best and most exhilarating album in more than a decade

This 10th outing, however, aims for the far-out — and surpasses its target by heroic margins. Co-produced by Belfast DJ and connoisseur soundtrack man David Holmes, More Light returns the Scream to the cosmic-futurist dance-rock of their Vanishing Point/XTRMNR days but turns up both the aggression and the psychedelia. It’s big, wild, valiant, occasionally ridiculous and possibly better than XTRMNTR — which puts More Light toe-to-toe with big old Screamadelica itself.

From the first few moments of opening track “2013″ it’s clear this will be no trad-rock Riot City Blues. Holmes installs a circular, buzzing, raga-like motif and when the riff kicks in it’s played not on period Mick Taylor-style guitars but a skronking sax — a sax! — more reminiscent of Roxy Music in the glory of their madness. “River Of Pain” summons up a serpentine, countrified vision of Massive Attack circa Mezzanine and then unfurls into a truly stupefying whirl of woozy free jazz and orchestral samples — some of the most bizarre and electrifying music the Scream have ever created. Even the returns to heads-down mötorikhead rock (“Elimination Blues,” “Hit Void”) and the slowies (“Tenement Kid,” “Relativity”) exhibit a questing sonic sensibility.

Some things remain the same, though. Bobby Gillespie is quick to detail the 21st century slaves, manipulated underclass, television propaganda and sundry other tribulations that mark his particular worldview. But there’s no denying the fetid energy and Sun Ra-meets-The Prodigy excitement here. They even round out this triumphant record by revisiting “Movin’ On Up” on the gospel-fuelled “It’s Alright, It’s OK” — a fitting finale for Primal Scream’s best and most exhilarating album in more than a decade.