Primal Scream - More Light (First International Records)

Primal Scream – More Light (First International Records)

In 1997, Primal Scream changed the way I listened to music forever, with their phenomenal ‘Vanishing Point’. The follow up ‘XTRMNTR’ turned me on to politics and various music genres I hadn’t explored previously. It was perhaps inevitable that after those two magnificent albums, subsequent releases failed to match such outstanding quality. 2008’s ‘Beautiful Future’ was a good record, but not a good Primal Scream record. Something about it just seemed a bit too conventional by their standards, and it was perhaps an indication that another change was needed in order to revive the momentum and keep things moving along.

During the intervening years, legendary bass icon Mani departed after over a decade with the group to return to his old pals in The Stone Roses, and after recording ‘More Light’ this ever changing unit welcomed the unknown Simone Butler into the fold. After spending the last few years touring 1991’s landmark ‘Screamadelica’, there have been rumours that the album’s sound was to be a major influence on the band’s new LP. The truth is that the tone is in fact closer to that of ‘Vanishing Point’ and ‘XTRMNTR’, however ‘More Light’ is a very different record that sees Primal Scream moving in new directions once again.

PrimalScream TomasCorreaArce ProffessionalProducer David Holmes helps the record flow with a filmic quality, the sort of album that takes you on a memorable journey. And like ‘Vanishing Point’, this is a good record for the road as well as a terrific thing to experience through headphones. Although there are hints of their best LPs, this isn’t a case of a band repeating themselves. The explosive nine minute opener ‘2013’ is the sound of thrilling confrontation that perfectly defines the state of modern culture. While others are either afraid to protest or not concerned, here is a fine and all too rare modern day example of a dire political, social and cultural climate provoking a powerful musical reaction, and Primal Scream are just the band to do it. 

“We’re living in very extreme times, but that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the music that I hear or the art that I see,” says Gillespie, “It seems that people are either anaesthetised, or they just don’t care. There’s no sense of revolt or resistance in art at the moment, whether it be music or the visual arts… I just feel that at the moment, that rock ‘n’ roll or rock musicians are either tranquillised, or they don’t care. Our songs kind of deal with that issue. We’re saying, ‘Where are the angry voices? Where’s the protest? Why’s nobody protesting? Why’s everybody silent?’”. Characterised by dissonance, angry rasping sax and a heavy rock beat are joined by the sounds of some mind blowing guitar from Kevin Shields.

130423 primal scream

Listening to the entrancing ‘River Of Pain’ through a good pair of headphones makes me feel like my 13 year old self hearing ‘Vanishing Point’ on my Walkman for the first time, a mind blowing experience packed full of terrific sounds. Its Eastern vibe, hypnotic funk rhythm and shimmering acoustic guitar almost bring to mind a slinky, mysterious relative of 1997’s ‘Kowalski’. Four minutes in, the whole thing breaks down and sucks you into a major freakout, a cascade of free jazz, dub sounds and the booming swell of an orchestra. This psychedelic atmosphere seems to define much of the album, making ‘More Light’ perhaps the trippiest Primal Scream record yet, some of it flowing in a freeform style, some of it sounding tunefully accessible. In that aspect, it does have things in common with ‘Screamadelica’, but don’t expect to hear any dance beats here. It’s also a much angrier piece of work, but certainly not a straight forward rock record like the previous two.

primal2The snarling ‘Culturecide’ revisits the lyrical themes of 2013, addressing society’s ignorance in a time of class war and turbulent times. Industrial synth and moody bass fuels this hard hitting piece of rock n roll social commentary. There’s no room for complacency here. Although this is Bobby Gillespie’s first “drug free” album, the euphoric energy and powerful My Bloody Valentine-esque guitars of ‘Hit Void’ present something that’s as “out-there” as anything the group have ever done, while the slow burning ‘Tenament Kid’ succeeds with layered rhythms and more terrific sounds.

Primal Scream More LightIt’s a sprawling record that is probably best listened to in two parts, making the double vinyl format an ideal choice, but a couple of tracks leave you wondering why they felt the need to include them on an already lengthy LP. And it’s not because they’re bad songs, it’s because they don’t seem to fit in with the flow of the record. ‘Invisible City’ is such a moment, and out of all the tracks here probably has the most in common with the previous album, combining soul and garage rock with an upbeat groove. It sounds out of place with the rest of the LP, yet it also demonstrates their diversity.

The sparse, simple ‘Goodbye Johnny’ is a brilliantly haunting and creepingly infectious moment, complete with more fantastic sax, an instrument that appears often during the course of the album and used to great effect. ‘Sideman’ is a most unusual moment, riotous psychedelica with a stomping rhythm and shades of 60’s weirdness, while ‘Elimination Blues’ sees Robert Plant providing backing vocals over a trippy gospel swamp groove. It sure does sound mighty when that fat, sleazy beat and crying guitar enter about two minutes in, although the lyrics tend to let it down a bit.

Primal ScreamThe excellent ‘We Turn Each Other Inside Out’ runs on a relentless motorik beat and features more incredible guitars, another addictive and truly exciting highlight, while the nine minute ‘Relativity’ begins calmly enough before quickly bursting into a violent stomp where Bobby G sounds angrier than he has for years. And then five minutes in it completely changes rhythm and mood, drifting into a euphoric state and ending on a blissful note.

The peaceful, sparse ‘Walking With The Beast’ resonates with a low key beauty, while the closing ‘It’s All Right, It’s OK’ sounds very much separate from the rest of the LP in terms of tone and sound. It’s the one track here that could have come from a ‘Screamadelica’ sequel, all piano, bongos and gospel vibes, very much like the offspring of ‘Movin’ On Up’ and ‘Jailbird’. In terms of it being the pre-album single, it’s certainly a misleading one. Considering that it’s the only track that has major similarities to previous material, there’s a touch of irony in the line “fake nostalgia for another’s past has never been my way”, but it’s joyously uplifting nevertheless, and probably the song of the summer.

Running at over 70 minutes, ‘More Light’ is the sprawling sound of a reinvigorated group giving it all they’ve got and stretching their musical imaginations to the limits, sounding vital and important once again. [Rating:4.5]

  1. the problem with Primal Scream for me has always been Bobby Gillespie, and his ‘cool, laid back vocals’. Fucker’s just lazy, but criticises everyone else for being ‘anaesthetised’. That said, tracks are sounding good (i’ll put it down to David Holmes)

  2. “It’s a sprawling record that is probably best listened to in two parts, making the double vinyl format an ideal choice.” I think that would make it 4 parts, butt.

    1. And just in case u think I’m being funny – a “single” vinyl – what would you call that, 1 part? If a single vinyl is 2 parts, how can you possibly classify a double album as also being 2 parts? And speaking as someone who has Screamadelica double vinyl, I can vouch for the fact that it’s a pain in the arse changing the record every 3 feckin tracks.

      1. I see your point Nick, however it does depend how you listen to something doesn’t it? On CD it is in two parts isn’t it?Also I guess there’s a difference between sides and parts in Ben’s definition. Anyway what do you think of the album? I’ve only heard a few songs….

        1. The songs I’ve heard I like. That’s 10 quality albums under their belts now. Unlike The Charlatans, for example, who really should have given up years ago, Primal Scream are a band who’ve shown it’s worth them keeping on going, with each album being something a bit different, and something to look forward to. Rolling Stones, supported by Primal Scream at Glastonbury will be awesome for anyone who is going. The deluxe CD has a bonus CD of extra tracks. The regular CD is 1 CD. The album is in 4 parts.

  3. What I meant was that it’s best listened to in two sittings. Play the first LP, then a while later play the 2nd LP. But then again, technically that would make four parts. Listen to it however you want to, people! I’m just stating the way i prefer to listen to this record, although i did play it all the way through last night and it sounded amazing still.

  4. Good review, Ben. Pretty much sums the album up I think.

    PS are a great constructor of tunes & one of the definitive magpie bands (which is not a criticism) — through their revolving cast of musicians & producers they’ve historically known what to bolt on & when to bolt on to the constant, core elements. In that respect they bring to mind PiL, a band who don’t so much evolve as mature. I wish, sometimes, there was a bit more of a challenge in both outfit’s output, but I guess both are probably as as tack sharp as we’re ever likely to see them at this stage. They also share a similarly distinctive vocal trait, which Sean picked up on below: laziness in delivery / structure. It works & it doesn’t work, depending on the song etc., but it is distinctly THEM. & in both cases I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.