The announcement of a new Primal Scream album entitled Chaosmosis prompted a few sniggers. The title comes from a Guattari book about subjectivity you probably won’t want to wade through, but it is hardly better to steal a bad idea than to conceive it. The cover casts Bobby Gillespie as the Test Card girl in a Davy Crockett hat and several dumb song titles suggest the band aren’t trying. For those of us who take genuine pleasure in self-parody it was very promising. Albums on which artists assess their own shortcomings with humour are often rewarding. However, Primal Scream’s 11th album is not characterised by idiot glee.
Its title hints at a new-found efficiency. Previously, when Gillespie wanted listeners to know he had enjoyed a book or film, he would chant its name over and over for several minutes. Here, the lyrics capture the phase of depression when language stops making sense: it takes days to form a sentence that, when it stutters out, fails to convey one’s intention. At such times, non-specific synths are either icy or summery and are played in washes or stabs. Perversely, the greatest clarity comes from poor decisions. ‘Carnival Of Fools’ is a parade of empty flings intended to heal insecurity, prompting the realisation that “The words were gone/No emotion would come.”
Gillespie is breathless with anxiety on ‘I Can Change’ and the vital Sky Ferreira inspires a hopeful, yearning performance on ‘Where The Light Gets In’, but elsewhere the gloom is stifling. ‘100% Or Nothing’ evokes the infantilising helplessness of being trapped in one’s own imagination using a refrain from We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. Partial livers surround the paranoid singer, taunting him: “What did you expect?”
The answer is: a mess. But they’re too dependable, ten years from the last turgid bar band record and having ceased using revolutionary symbols as fashion statements. Primal Scream have refined their approach to the agnostic millenarian tradition they joined circa Vanishing Point. The only shame is they, like their peers, never predicted a date, so we will never hear them cope with a Great Disappointment.
Chaosmosis is released on 18/03/16.