Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beautiful Future for Primal Scream?

Where do you stand on the issue of Primal Scream? It’s as an important question as any since the band has just released their ninth studio album, Beautiful Future. Admittedly, not all of them have been any good, but can you name one band that has recorded nine brilliant albums in a row?

No one, let alone lead singer Bobby Gillespie, remembers the two LP’s released in the 1980’s. But Screamadelica, of course, is an indescribable masterpiece. Epic, I believe the word is.I couldn’t care less about 1994’s Give Out But Don't Give Up - Primal Scream playing southern rock? Leave that to the Kings of Leon.

Vanishing Point in 1997 (actually the first Scream Team album I ever bought) was not bad. Recorded as an ‘instant composition’, it showed Primal’s fondness for experimentation, and, as a Primal Scream beginner, Kowalski was an excellent introduction to the wonderful world of Bobby G.

Then, in 2000, it all exploded. Years of withheld anger came out. XTRMNTR was a political fist punch in your face, an angry techno rant that blew my ears out. But in a nice way of course. It was a great album in all ways possible; music, lyrics, name, design etc. XTRMNR was exactly how I wanted my Primal Scream – fast and furious!

Obviously, no one can keep that tempo up. Evil Heat in 2002 was considerably calmer, well polished and much more polite. Miss Lucifer was perhaps a distant cousin to Swastika Eye but the rest failed to reignite my flame (This even though Andrew Weatherall was called back on production duties). And all I will say about Bobby’s Velvet Morning duet with Kate Moss is that at least it beats Agyness Deyn’s recent contribution to popular music.

Riot City Blues was as a ridiculous album, in both title and music, as it was pure homage to MC5.But I quite liked the album artwork. I know they’re massive fans of the Detroit band (they played live together at this years Meltdown Festival) but that’s an explanation, not an excuse! Plus, otherwise excellent single Country Girl was BBC’s football World Cup song that year – how rock’n’roll is that?

Speed up to 2008 – last week to be precise – and join me in celebrating yet another Primal Scream release. Beautiful Future is advertised as a pop album. Bobby described the songs as “Sugar coated bullets”. The first two songs, including single Can’t Go Back, are produced by Paul Epworth of Bloc Party fame. BjörnYttling, of whistling Peter, Björn & John prominence, oversees most other songs. Both producers bring a clear pop sound to the album and, at least compared to Riot City Blues, it represents a return to their electronic roots. Kate is dumped in favour of Lovefoxxx from CSS, Josh Homme (Queens of The Stone age) features and Bobby duets with Linda Thompson on a Fleetwood Mac cover, which I think is the albums low point.

Beautiful Future’s problem is not unlike Evil Heat’s. It’s a middle of the road album without a distinctive sound of its own. It doesn’t have the raw energy of XTRMNR or genre defining greatness of Screamadelica. But, as I’ve already said, no one can stay on top all the time. Beautiful Future certainly has its moments. Can’t Go Back is a top tune and the title track will be a crowd pleaser at festivals. The Lovefoxxx combo works nicely. But if you were waiting for Bobby's techno fist to knock you out again, you’ll have to keep waiting. But I suppose that’s the definition of a fan – he doesn’t mind waiting…

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