Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Primal Scream

Handsome looking bunch, aren't they? Bobby Gillespie's merry band of party goers, hell raisers and part time music makers are not the most prolific of bands, eight albums since 1987 including the soon to be released 'Riot City Blues' and excluding 1997's 'Echo Dek' despite its obvious merits it being a remix album by Adrian Sherwood. Of the seven albums to date I own five so I guess I could be called a fan.
Bobby was the original stand up drummer for the Reid brothers in Jesus & Mary Chain, legend has is that despite being allowed to wear his ever present leather pants on stage his ego demanded that he was more front of stage. So it was that he formed Primal Scream in the mid eighties, almost as far removed from the noise terrorist approach of JAMC as it was possible to be with their jangly pop. He managed to hold down his place in both bands but as they were both on the an upwards curve the Reids insisted that he make a choice, and so the Scream became his full time employment. The title of their first album 'Sonic Flower Power' and the sixties Byrds feel of the album cover says all you need to know about the music within it. The title 'Velocity Girl' was one of the featured tracks on the NME's notorious c86 cassette, though it must be said that this environment was not their natural home. Through out his career Gillespie has proven himself to be a musical chameleon, changing musical styles as easy as some of us change our socks, and so it was that for their second and self titled album in 1889, they took a the rock god route. Again the visual image they presented was very close to the New York Dolls and MC5 influenced garage rock they were now producing.
It would take their third album the 1992 Mercury prize winning 'Sceamadelica' before they achieved the fame that Gillespie so obviously craved. The end of the eighties in the UK heralded the blooming underground (acid) house scene, and Bobby having discovered something between D and F became fascinated by this new dance music and the possibilities it offered and saw this a way forward for the band. Recruiting the services of a friend, Andrew Weatherall, the track 'I'm Losing You More Than I'll Ever Have' from the second album was remixed. So radical was the treatment it underwent that the finished product was a totally new song and so it became 'Loaded', and as they say the rest is history. Now not having been convinced myself at the time by the acid house scene, there were certain aspects of the album that did not go down to well with me, if it were not for the more classic rock songs on 'Sreamadelica' I probably would never have given it a second listen, and thank heaven that I did as 15 years down the line the album has become a well merited family favorite mixing so successfully as it does elements of dub, pop, techno and rock. A track that did not feature on the album despite deserving to do so was the B side of 12" version of 'Movin' On Up', here is a remixed version of 'Sceamadelica' as revisited by Go Home Productions.
As is very much their nature the next album was a change in direction and again the album cover gave it all away the band had a new obsession with southern (US) rock! Now part of the trouble with 'Give Out But Don't Give Up' is that a) it's too long (a sad truth is that in this CD age artists seem to feel obliged to fill the medium and well sometimes 70 minutes is just too much, I can remember vinyl when we were lucky to get 40 minutes) and b) it does not really benefit from the collaboration on certain tracks with drug buddy George Clinton who was by this stage well passed his sell by date. Now having said this I flooded the local airwaves with 'Rocks' at the time and the album contained several Stones style ballads along the lines of 'Wild Horses', for which we are all suckers, aren't we? Here is a live version of the albums opener 'Jailbird' as recorded in Japan July 1994.
The two albums that follow also have their place in my collection, though let's just say that they are not on high rotation. Both of them received glowing reviews praising them for their musical innovation and risk taking the only problem was they just didn't get my feet moving, very much a case of them working on an intellectual level but not on a gut level which after all is what the Scream are all about, raw emotions. Then a few weeks ago I was watching some UK gangster film maybe 'Layer Cake', I'm not quite sure, anyway 'Swastika Eyes' from 2000's 'XTRMNTR' had pride of place in the films soundtrack and suddenly everything fell in place and the song started making sense. The film was ok but I'll probably only watch it the once but thanks to it I've rediscovered a lost album.
Don't forget 5 June is the scheduled release date for 'Riot City Blues' which will of course be available from all good record shops and web sites. The word out is that it is again a return to a more classic rock environment, anyway as usual I guess it will be well worth a listen. The band would appear to no longer liking touring as their date sheet is rather empty, next on a short list being Paris Olympia 2 July, only wish I could make it there.

Great band, great post. I just tackled Primal Scream recently, too.
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